Garn the Magnificent gratefully lowered himself into a chair at his favorite table in his favorite tavern on Talon III. The planet was still in the middle of an ice age, but the spiced cider was warm and the bowl of gros-nak stew that the serving boy placed in front of him was large.
He had just tucked into his second bowl when a familiar face appeared at his elbow. “Garn! How’s my favorite little green man?”
“I am not little!” Garn huffed jokingly as he stood to greet her. He held out his hand and willed it to turn blue. “And who’s to say green is my natural color?”
Sandy hugged him so tightly that he grunted. “It’s been for-ever since I’ve seen you. What gives?” She fluffed out her hair – which was dyed bright blue this month and plopped down into the chair opposite him.
Garn smiled and gestured for the server. “Not much, m’ dear. Just a little of this and a little of that.”
Sandy giggled. “And spreading mayhem across a dozen systems, I bet.”
“Not at all,” Garn leaned back and took a deep swallow from the fresh mug that had magically appeared at his elbow. Though, if he recalled, some Talonians could teleport, so perhaps there was a scientific explanation for the excellent service at this establishment. “I’ve been a perfect gentleman.” That small riot on Vegan III had not been his fault – mostly.
Sandy rolled her eyes and turned towards her own bowl of stew that appeared in front of her. “Sure.” She speared a long purple root vegetable with her eating implement. “Well, I’ve been on the longest mission ever to Candar and I can’t wait to get home.”
Garn sat up in horror, knocking over his mug in his haste. “You can’t do that!” He gasped. “Your planet is a madhouse now.”
“You mean Earth?” Sandy’s brow furrowed. “It’s always crazy, but there’s no place like home, y’know.”
Garn picked up his again magically replenished mug. “You’ll just have to trust me, m’ dear. I’ve been there twice in as many of your weeks and it is no fit place to visit, I’ll tell you.”
Sandy arched one eyebrow. “Really?”
“Yes, really. Haven’t you been following the interplanetary ‘link reports? It’s all over the news feeds.”
“Well no,” Sandy looked uncertain for the first time. “My ‘link was confiscated on Candar – because of a potentially dangerous software program.”
Garn nodded wisely. “Ahh… Candy Crush, I presume?” Most Earth computer games were outlawed by the Candarians, who wouldn’t know fun if it smacked them in their superior blue faces.
Sandy sighed and nodded. “So, what’s up on good old Earth?”
Garn gestured for another bowl of stew. He would need sustenance to tell this sorry tale. “There is a terrible contagion raging there – something called the Korangavirus.” He paused. “Though some Earth news presenters call it Ko-Vid-19.”
Sandy gasped. “Is it as deadly as it sounds?”
Garn nodded. “Yes – millions have had the dread disease and many, many thousands have died, sadly – though most seem to recover.”
“Well I guess that’s something.” Sandy pushed away her mostly untouched plate. “What are the symptoms?”
“They say coughing, shortness of breath and fever are most common.” Garn pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Though from what I have observed, it also gives people a powerful compulsion to purchase all of the food and toilet paper from your stores.”
“Really? I’ve never heard of a virus like that,” Sandy said doubtfully.
“Oh yes – it is a terrible disease indeed.” Garn began to describe what he had observed on Earth in detail – starting with the deserted streets and empty marketplaces and ending with all of the closures. “The only business establishment that seems to be open is your McDonald’s.”
Sandy pushed back from the table and began to gather up her heavy parka and backpack. “That does it! I have to get back home now – to see how I can help.”
“You’re a good girl, Sandy.” Garn smiled gently. “However, if you’d like good old Uncle Garn’s advice – you’d finish your dinner here, first.”
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