They landed their ship in some sort of field. The crop, according to their preparation materials, was called asphalt, and made for a steady landing. Apparently, the humans used this asphalt for the care and feeding of their primary motion animals, automobiles. It must have been very important, as it covered a great deal of the Earth, so Moelte and Cairynt were unsurprised to see a field of it in front of a leader’s residence.
“Look!” Cairynt shouted from the window, pointing. “There are even some automobiles grazing!”
Moelte looked, and saw several different species, including ones called a trook and an Elcameeno, and one of the smaller motorcycles. It nodded happily.
“We have surely reached this area’s leader,” it said carefully. It had been difficult learning this area’s primary language, but Nzorfan scientists had been unable to determine if the universal translator would work on human ears.
“Let us go, Cairynt, and begin a new relationship with a fresh species!” Moelte said.
“To think,” Cairynt said, nodding its face area. “We have the distinguished honor of welcoming the humans to the interstellar…” it struggled for a few seconds, and then its seven eyes lit up as it remembered the word it wanted. “Neighborhood.”
With a little more fussing of their attire, the two Nzorfans stood at the top of the ramp. With a shared nod, Cairynt pressed the button, and the ramp lowered to the asphalt with a hydraulic hiss. With steps filled with dignity and import, they made their way down the ramp. Carefully. They did not want to fall in front of their new friends.
They expected to be met by the intense security response they had read about in their preparation materials. Men in black and white suits, holding guns should have been surrounding them by now. But as they looked around and waited, nothing happened. Several automobiles went down the line of asphalt in front of the field, but none of them stopped. Only a couple of the humans riding the automobiles even looked at them.
“Curious,” Moelte said.
“I expected a bigger response.”
“As did I, which is why I said curious.”
“Perhaps our reputation precedes us, and we are not perceived as a threat?”
“Unlikely,” Cairynt said. “Based on the preparation materials, humans are filled with…um…yes, they are filled with distrust and panic, especially with unknowns, and especially with their leaders.”
“You are correct, and I humbly apologize for offering a situation of miniscule chance as a possibility.”
“Your apology is accepted with humility,” Cairynt said. “Let us go inside, and perhaps our new alliance shall begin.”
They crossed the field of asphalt, fascinated at the heat that was expelled from it. What was the purpose of this heat? Moelte made a notation in his suit’s computer to ask one of Earth’s scientists.
The interior of the leader’s building was not as Nzorfans pictured it would be. There were many tables and chairs. A machine to one side that had nozzles underneath brightly colored squares. And at the back of the room, a long counter stretched out. A human male stood behind the counter, behind an unknown countertop device. The human male was wearing a shirt that humans would describe as blue. Gratefully, there was no fear on the human male’s face. The Nzorfans had studied pictures of humans and their emotions extensively, and the human male appeared to be feeling confusion.
“I give you greetings,” Moelte said, approximately a human greeting called a wave with one of its limbs. “The sounds used to identify me are Moelte, and the sounds used to identify my partner are Cairynt. We are Nzorfans, from the nearby planet Grewtna, and we have come to…as you humans say…forge an alliance.”
“Are we speaking to the leader of this group of humanity?” Cairynt asked.
The human male looked between the two. He still appeared to be feeling confusion, his eyes bouncing between the two Nzorfans.
“Oh,” Cairynt said, looking at Moelte. “Perhaps we have learned the wrong language for this area?”
“Nah, man,” the human male said. “You got it right. I’m just…a little lost. I’m going to be honest with you, I smoked a bowl on my lunch break, and I’m starting to wonder if it was laced with something.”
Now it was Moelte’s turn to feel confusion. It crinkled its noses and said, “I am apologizing, you have said words in such a way we have not learned.”
“Oohh. I bet you learned English, like, in a school and shit? Yeah, man, that’s not how we talk in the real world.”
This was not how this momentous occasion was supposed to go. Cairynt tried to get things back on track.
“Please. If you are not the leader of this area, can we be introduced.”
The human male shrugged his shoulders, a motion they knew could mean many things. He leaned his head over his shoulder and yelled. “Gary!”
“What?” was yelled back.
“I got…uh…there’s some…uh…someone asked for you.”
“Potch, you dipshit, what did you do now?”
The human called ‘Gary’ came around a corner and froze at the sight of Moelte and Cairynt. Gary stared at the two Nzorfans with a face neither of them were able to read. After three full seconds, Gary turned to Potch and pointed at the Nzorfans with a thumb.
“The hell is this shit?”
“Do I look like I know?”
“Don’t fuck with me, Potch, you’re already on thin ice. Did you set this prank up?”
“It’s not a prank, Gary. I fully have no idea what is going on.”
Moelte had finally heard a word he recognized in their discussion, and held up two of his limbs. “Please, this is not a prank. The sounds used to identify me are Moelte, and the sounds used to identify my partner are Cairynt. We are Nzorfans, from the nearby planet Grewtna, and we have come to…zzzz…come to…”
“Forge an alliance,” Cairynt supplied.
“Yes. Precisely. Thank you, Cairynt.”
Gary looked at the aliens for a few more seconds. His eyes darted around them, and must have seen their ship still on the asphalt.
“I believe this is the term humans use, yes.”
“And you’ve come here…to be friends?”
“Friends, allies, partners, yes. We mean your planet no harm.”
“Well, that’s a fucking relief,” Potch said.
“Yeah, I guess.” Gary rubbed his limb on the base of his head. “What are you doing here, then?”
“We were instructed that this location was the home of this area’s leader.”
Gary and Potch looked at each other. It was clear from their faces they were trying hard to understand. It was Potch whose face demonstrated understanding first.
“Oh, shit! Shit, man. You guys are looking for the White House.”
“Yes, precisely,” Cairynt said. “Is this not the White House?”
“No,” Gary said. “This is a White Castle.”
Moelte and Cairynt discussed amongst themselves in their own language, something that would sound like long strings of vowels to the human males.
“We are confused,” Cairynt said. “We were made to understand house and castle are words used for the same thing.”
“Sort of,” Gary said.
“They’re synonyms,” Potch said. “They mean the same thing in a broad sense, but have nuances that ultimately make them describe different things.”
Gary looked at Potch and made a noise that meant surprise. “That might be the smartest thing I’ve heard you say.”
“I do have an English degree.”
“I have apologies,” Moelte said. “Are you meaning that the leader of the area known as the United States of America is not at this location?”
“Shit, no,” Gary said. “He’s down in Washington DC. Probably. I mean, I don’t know his schedule.”
Cairynt pulled up the most recent map from their preparation packet and scanned through briefly.
“Yes, Moelte, they are right. I see our mistake now. There are approximately three hundred and seventy-seven White Castle places, but only one White House. Surely, it is this White House Tavern, located approximately…zzzz…twenty-fives miles from here?”
Both human males began to do something, expelling air from their mouths in quick jags. It took Cairynt a moment to remember that humans laugh when they find something humorous.
“Please,” Moelte said. “Is this a human prank?”
“No, it’s just…that place is a bar,” Gary said. “You know, a bar? A place where people go after work to drink alcohol and relax?”
Cairynt said, “Ah, I understand. They have named this bar after your leader’s domicile out of respect. It must be a very fine…zzzz…establishment.”
Potch forced air out of his nose. “I once got an STD from a one night stand I picked up there, so…”
“Oh don’t tell them all that. What is the matter with you?” Gary said. “Look, you want 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, okay? It’s in Washington, DC, and it’s like…I don’t know…two hundred miles down the coast?”
Consulting the computer once more, Moelte found the address the human male named Gary was talking about. Its appendage hair wiggled in embarrassment.
“Yes, Cairynt. I can see this is what we wanted all along. This White Castle-”
“-has a controlled air space. Thank you, human Gary and human Potch, for settling our mistake.”
Cairynt and Moelte, each carrying a paper bag filled with tiny hamburgers, went back to their ship and put in the coordinates for the correct White House.
“Humans are strange, Cairynt,” Moelte said, pleased with the sound the paper bag made when it crinkled. “But if our new friends Gary and Potch are any indication, earth shall surely be a peaceful place to exchange ideas.”
Cairynt was staring into its bag. “What’s the point of these, anyway?”