We Service All Imported Vehicles
"Jovan, that sign's just gonna get us into trouble," Shana said.
Her brother grinned. "Bring in business, is what it'll do. Besides, between you and me, nothing we can't fix."
"It's a bad idea."
The phone rang.
"Just answer the phone! And remember to sell it. We've got the tools and the books, we can fix anything."
She sighed and picked up the receiver. "Jordan Repair, Shana speaking. We service all imported vehicles."
"Service required." The voice sounded sharp and squeaky.
"Sure thing, sir. We've got an opening now, if you want to bring 'er in we'll take a look."
"Service onsite required."
"Whoa now," Shana said. "We can do that, but we charge extra for house calls, and it'll be a few--"
There was a bright flash and a scent of ozone. The telephone receiver clattered against the wall.
"SHANA!" Jovan bellowed from the garage. "I told you not to drop the phone!"
But Shana was gone.
For the past several hours, Shana had been shut up with the bird-man and the tentacled ... thing ... in what they said was their engine room. Zrglf, the one with the tentacles, had tried to explain what had happened. One or the other hadn't been paying attention, and they'd cut too tight a turn around the sun, and burnt out some component or other. So they'd had to go into orbit around Earth while they waited for an intergalactic tow truck. Zrglf, who'd been past Earth before, had gotten the bright idea of calling a local mechanic.
In that time she'd gotten as far as explaining the concept of the Chilton repair manual, with detours into Kelley Blue Book, Jiffy-Lube, and the economic history of Detroit. Thankfully she was saved from having to explain 'white flight' when the replicator finished spitting out what was supposed to be the repair manual for the ship.
The bird-man -- Kreearr -- squinted at the book. “Backwards, you say?”
“Yes," oozed Zrglf. "Left to right. Idiots human subset write also top to bottom.”
“Surely the preferred direction of writing is arbitrary,” Shana interjected.
“Gods say not. See also stupidities your other. Zones time many. Nouns follow descriptors. System measurement adequate but universal not. Flow electricity plus to minus. Humans backwards ways many.”
“Well, we don’t have a single planetary government to set or enforce standards.”
“Problem also. Gods like not. Humans sloppy. Query: we fix.”
Shana laughed. "Fix how? You can't just wave your hand and expect everyone on Earth to listen to you."
Kreearr and Zrglf stared at her.
"Hands," said Zrglf, "stupidities additional."
"On that at least we are agreed," said Kreearr. "All one needs is a firm grip in one's beak."
Zrglf waved its lower tentacles in the expression that Shana had come to recognize as a shrug. "Regime change irrelevant. Priorities current include repair to drive bay."
Shana looked around at the still-smoking ruin. "I keep telling you," she said, "I can't fix this."
"Sign says otherwise," Zrglf said.
"The sign on the structure where we retrieved you," Kreearr said. "SHIPS IMPORT ALL FIX WE, or whatever it was."
Shana stared. "That's it? That's why you brought me here? That stupid sign? I told Jovan not to put that up. Boy can't even tell the difference between a metric and standard ratchet set."
"Nevertheless," Zrglf said. "Sign says."
"It's just advertising!"
They looked at her, uncomprehending.
"You know. When you're trying to get a customer, you oversell yourself. Figure you can make it up as you go."
Kreearr sat down abruptly. "The sign... an untruth?"
"Well, not exactly an untruth, but..."
Zrglf had wrapped its tentacles around its head. "Blasphemy, blasphemy!"
"Don't tell me this is something your gods don't like either?"
Kreearr covered its eyes with its wings. "Text is to be used only for truth or for believed-as-truth! Blasphemy!"
Zrglf let its tentacles fall. "Worse," it said. "Human fix cannot. Stuck. Parental units call."
"Perhaps," Kreearr said from under its wings, "the human is wrong?"
"What?" Shana said.
"True!" said Zrglf. "Idiot human subset misunderstands sign! ALL VEHICLES FOREIGN."
"Now, wait a minute--"
Kreearr turned back to the control panel. "We should be stable enough for one more jump. Service onsite, you say?
"I don't think--" She paused. Then she grinned. "Sure. Service onsite, I say."
Another bright flash of light. The ricketty wooden garage structure exploded out in a shower of splinters as the aliens' ship materialized inside it.
Jovan, grabbing a beer from the fridge in the back, turned around and stared at the ship. An off-white panel in its side slid up, revealing a bright blue light. He could just make out the silhouettes of three figures.
"Jovan!" Shana shouted. "I got a job for you!"