Abr and Bnr were two aliens sent to earth on a fact-finding mission from the planet Zerros by the supreme commander, Knx.
"Find out if the planet is ripe for take over," Knx told them. Collecting planets was a hobby of his, and he was in the mood to add to his collection.
"Will do," Abr said.
"You can count on us," added Bnr.
They left the next day.
The Universal Portal System deposited the two of them onto a subway platform in New York City. After they each instantaneously shape-shifted to resemble humans (Abr wearing kakis and a pink polo shirt and Bnr dressed in skinny jeans and black tee-shirt), they followed the crowd up a long escalator to street level, right in the heart of Manhattan. Immediately they noticed something odd; some people were wearing face mask coverings and others weren't.
Abr whispered to Bnr, "What's going on?"
Bnr sniffed, "Maybe it's because the air smells so bad."
Abr held his nose and nodded, "Probably, but I'm going to find out for sure." He put out his arm and stopped a young man sauntering by carrying a skateboard. "Excuse me. Could you please tell us why some people are wearing those things on their face?"
The young man had dreadlocks and wore a red tee-shirt and baggy pants. He gave them a perplexed look. "You mean, masks? Haven't you heard about the pandemic?"
Neither of them had a clue but Bnr was quick to play along. "A little, but tell us what you know."
"Okay," he said, agreeably. "It began in China in 2019 and spread around the world from there. It got bad here in the states in March of 2020 and has stayed bad ever since."
"Wow!" Bnr exclaimed. "That's about ..."
"Yeah, it's been over two years, now. Wearing a mask has helped slow the spread of the virus."
Abr asked, "Why doesn't everyone wear one?"
The young man shrugged, flipped his dreadlocks back onto his shoulder and said, "Because they're idiots." He put down his skateboard, stepped on and skated off down the sidewalk.
Abr and Bnr watched him weave in and out of the crowd.
"We should get masks," Abr said. "To be on the safe side."
"Yes, we should," Bnr agreed. "And to fit in. Say, I have an idea. Let's try an experiment."
"What do you have in mind?"
"Why don't you wear a mask and I won't. We'll see if it makes a difference."
"Sounds good," Abr said. "I'd like a black one like the guy we talked to had."
"Great," Bnr said. "Let's go get you one."
One year later, Bnr, the non-mask wearing alien, returned alone to Zerros. After he completed his initial de-briefing, the supreme commander summoned him. "What happened? Why'd you come back alone? Did Abr die even though he was wearing one of those ridiculous masks?" He laughed, "Abr was always kind of a gullible sort."
"No," Bnr was quick to respond. "The mask helped him a lot. He never got sick." Then he grinned sheepishly. "On the other hand, I got the virus and almost died. It was touch and go for a while but," he pointed to himself, "as you can see, I made it back just fine."
Knx was unimpressed. "Whatever ... Getting back to Abr, if he's not dead, why didn't he come back with you?"
"You'll never believe it, sir."
Bnr grinned. "He met a lady."
"Impossible. You scientists aren't supposed fall for that kind of nonsense. You're all about the science. Research. Facts. Testing and more testing. You don't have time for romance."
Bnr grinned even more. "Nevertheless, sir, that's what happened. 'Hook, line and sinker' is the expression they use on earth. 'The whole kit-and-caboodle.' The ..."
"All right! I get your drift."
"He's in love, sir."
"What! What kind of stupid thing is that to say? Love. It's a bunch of ..." Knx was beside himself, not one inclined toward anything to do with amorous intentions. "It's a bunch of crap, that's what it is."
"He's really smitten, sir. It's pretty emotional for him, too, and he's not used to dealing with feelings."
"I should say not."
"And it's complicated."
"How so?" The supreme commander was on shaky ground when it came to talking about love.
"Well, she's brilliant. She stands in the harbor of New York City and is kind of a beacon for liberty. She's got a lot of responsibility."
"I can imagine."
"Yes. She's made of metal and Abr adores her. He's with her all the time taking care of her, cleaning her and watching out for her. She doesn't move much. Plus, she's kind of quiet, but he enjoys talking to her even if she doesn't talk back. Like I said, he's very smitten."
"Even with this pandemic going on he's not worried about getting sick?"
"No, sir. He wears his mask. He's being safe. He's very happy."
Knx was quiet for a moment. Then he sighed, giving Abr up as a lost cause, and focused on Bnr. "Well, what about you? You made it back just fine without falling into this ridiculous thing called love.
"Well, sir, I'm glad you asked. I wanted to talk to you about that." Knx gave Bnr a steely look, but he continued anyway. "I've met someone, too."
"What! What's with you two? And what's with that crazy planet? Something in the water?"
"Um, I wouldn't know about that, sir," Bnr said.
"Better tell me about what's going on."
"I fell for a statue, too, sir, but he's different."
"Yes, sir. He's name is Abraham Lincoln and he lives over in Washington D. C. He's very famous and they have a memorial to him. He was a great man."
"I don't believe it."
"Yes, sir. In fact, after going through the final debriefing later today, I'd like permission to return."
"Return? You mean you want to go back?" Knx shook his head. "What about the pandemic? Aren't you afraid?"
"I'm not worried, sir. I've got my mask. Plus, I've built up antibodies since I've already been sick with it."
Knx thought for a minute, then asked, "What about the mission to take over the planet? You've been there a year. Should we attack now?"
"No, sir. I'd wait. The pandemic will kill many more people, especially if they persist in not following the guidelines. It's inevitable. After that happens it'll make dealing with them that much easier. Less people to worry about.
Knx didn't hesitate. "Makes sense. Okay, then. You have permission to return. Just keep me up to date." He paused and then added, "You looking forward to seeing this Abraham friend of yours?"
Bnr smiled, "Oh, yes, sir. He's wonderful."
The supreme commander shook his head, "I don't get it."
"Well, if you saw him and got to know him like I have, you'd know what I'm talking about."
"When do you want to leave?"
Bnr got a faraway look in his eye, "As soon as possible, sir. Pandemic or no pandemic, I can't wait to get back."