Rubber Forehead Theory
Mark A Davis
Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero, opened his eyes. He was naked and wet, and lying in a long tube of glass and polished metal -- a kind of windowed coffin. A pleasant feminine voice said, Welcome back to life. Your body has been reconstituted in our instant regeneration vats. You are aboard the Hammerhead of of Heedral. I am the ship's computer Val 9000; I am at your disposal.
Grandpa blinked. The Hammerhead of Heedral was Jennie Nova's ship. He'd been through this before. Jennie was an agent for the galactic empire known as Eieio (pronounced EE-Yow), and registration with the Eieio (pronounced EE-Yow) government meant you could be revived via clone technology and a computer recording of your mind.
Jennie had contacted Grandpa on earth for help on a mission to some planet called Hanl Six. Fisticuffs might be involved -- and if Grandpa was good at anything, it was fisticuffs. But the last he could remember, they'd still been travelling to Hanl Six. There'd been no incident, nothing to explain why he might have recently died....
With a soft mechanical whir, the top half of the coffin arose. Standing over him was a very healthy young woman with fair skin and red hair. She was dressed in a silver bikini and gogo boots, with a shiny blaster on a belt at her hip. "Don't move," she commanded. "I'm still trying to calibrate the ship's new defense mechanisms...."
Viscous green liquid dripped from the tank and drained into a grate in the center of the room. Grandpa said, "I died? I don't remember nothing....."
"It's not my fault!" Jennie exclaimed. "Kuh! It's this drumdik ship defense system that 5E headquarters forced on us, it's got a few scorching bugs in it...."
Grandpa started to sit up. Jennie pushed him down. "I said wait," she said firmly. "I want to make sure you don't have any bumps on your head...." She ran a hand scanner over his forehead.
"Why would I have bumps on my head?" Grandpa asked. "Isn't this a brand new body?"
"Pure fusion," said Jennie, "but I just want to be sure. I mean, we have your DNA profile and memory and personality readings stored, but it still takes a few hours for the cloning tanks to restore you. No harm taking an extra minute if it might save you several hours!"
Llahna walked into the room. Like Jennie, Llahan wore a silver bikini and go go boots -- it was the official uniform of the Society of Intergalactic Space Babes. Unlike Jennie, Llahna was clearly an alien -- you could tell by the blue skin. She was an Arellian from Kootah Delphi Seven in the Trifid Nebula.
"Is Captain Headbang finally awake?" Llahna asked.
Grandpa frowned. "Does someone want to explain what happened to me?"
"You died," Llahna said.
"I got that part," Grandpa growled. "What does that have to do with me banging my head?"
"It's a bit complicated," said Llhana, "but the Eieio (pronounced EE-Yow) Empire has had a problem lately with terrorists, assassins, and spies from Zorath. You're familiar with Zorath, aren't you? They're aliens who look almost human, except for the bumps on their forehead...."
Grandpa nodded. "Yes, yes. The old Rubber Forehead rule -- lots of aliens are humanoid with bumpy foreheads or weird colored skin or hair. Nobody can explain it."
"Exactly," said Llahna. "These spies are disguised as humans by covering up or hiding the bumps on their foreheads. To combat it, 5E -- the Eieio (pronounced EE-Yow) Empire Endowment and Encouragement Enforcement agency -- rolled out this new security system designed to detect aliens disguised as humans...."
"Let me guess," said Grandpa. "Based on the bumps on their foreheads?"
"That's right!" said Jennie. "Only, it's a bit buggy... and you hit your head pretty hard...."
Grandpa's eyes crossed. "Wait a second. Are you telling me your own security system killed me, because of a bump on my forehead?"
"But we put you back together," exclaimed Jennie, "So it's really okay! We just need to make sure it doesn't happen yet again...."
"Doesn't happen yet again?" Grandpa yelled. "How many times...." he began as he raised himself abruptly. His head banged into the lid of the coffin. Jennie and Llahna hit the deck as laser fire erupted. Klaxons blared. Sirens wailed. "DANGER! ALIEN DETECTED! DANGER! WARNING!" the ship's defense system exclaimed. The room filled with knockout gas and the acrid smell of burning flesh -- Jennie and Llahna were barely able to activate their holobreathers in time.
When it was over, Jennie and Llahna examined Grandpa's corpse. Llahna asked, "What is that, five times now?"
"TANJ!" Jennie swore. "This is getting old! If we can't disable that system, then I say don't revive him until we reach Hanl Six."