"This design has a critical flaw that could have catastrophic consequences! I absolutely forbid you to proceed to the next stage in the experiments!"

"You have, hm? Let's see it, then!"

If any other lab assistant had dared talk to him like this, Dr. Andonuts would probably have them ejected from his laboratory on the spot, or possibly gone ahead with the experiments anyway and made sure they were on the shortlist for the initial human trials (which was, after all, a mandatory part of their job description – it said so in the small print of their contracts). The boy in front of him, squinting through thick glasses and adjusting the bow tie of his oddly fitted dark green suit, was an exception. Not only was the boy a brilliant scientist and a valuable asset to the team, even at the age of fifteen, and the only person he could actually trust to give him advice in his own field, this boy was his son. Dr. Andonuts had to admit that Jeff was a better lab assistant than the scientist was a father; his son actually consistently remembered that he was a lab assistant, for instance.

"Simply put... this 'Absolutely Safe Capsule'... how do you open it again once someone is inside it?"

"Pardon? You're not supposed to open it! It's supposed to keep people out! If it was easy enough to open that people could just walk up and open it, how is it supposed to survive being dropped inside a volcano, say, or launched into space? And what if someone is attacking you, eh?"

"I understand that bit, but I meant, how do you open it at all? Ever?"

"Don't worry, the capsule is set to automatically open once all danger has passed!"

"Sir, er, dad, the issue is... the stripped-down Phase Distorter you put in the capsule will identify everything as danger. Literally every possible situation that could conceivably causally lead to harm coming to someone's person. You know, such as there being a slight step downwards from the capsule to the floor that the user might fall and hurt themselves. Or there being another person in existence at all who is capable of attacking them. The Phase Distorter is capable of finding any possible world in existence, or even generating dimensions of its own at a push. If I was this machine, I would just lock the pilot in a null dimension and never let them out!"

"You think so?" Dr. Andonuts scratched his head, "But it worked okay in the simulation! Although, of course, there were only six possible parallel worlds in the simulation... Maybe I should test it on mice first."

"If you do that, you'll probably end up with a very expensive and useless booth full of mice that you can't get out!"

"If I used an Exit Mouse, it might cancel out the effect!"

"Please don't lose any more of the mice in parallel worlds, dad! We talked about this!"

"You're right, I need to set a few aside to launch into space," he mused, his face lighting up at the prospect. He was enjoying his new position as chief laboratory assistant at Saturn Valley Laboratories. Instead of returning to their simple, innocent lives after the battle with Giygas was over, the strange creatures of Saturn Valley had designed an astronautics laboratory and declared their intent to build a spaceship and return to their home planet, Saturn. As he was the only scientist they actually knew, they had recruited him straight away to lead their project. Visiting outer space had long been a dream of his. After all, once you had invented time travel, anti-gravity transport methods and human/dungeon hybrids, and your son had forbidden you to make any weapons of mass destruction, where else could a scientific genius really go next?

"May I make a suggestion, dad?" began Jeff, a little nervous, "Maybe the Phase Distorter isn't the best idea. Remember that the reason I dismantled it when you weren't looking was because it was possibly an even greater danger to the fabric of the entire Universe than Giygas?"

"Yes, yes, I forgive you for that," said Dr. Andonuts.

"And remember how we already tested the capability of the capsule alone and worked out that it can withstand the pressure of sheer vacuum, the life-support systems can keep a human alive indefinitely and the machine doesn't require any power?" he added, "What I'm trying to say is, it works perfectly well without the Phase Distorter."

"But I can't guarantee we won't lose anyone. The capsule still can't survive a direct hit from an Omega-level psychic assault!"

"I... you actually persuaded Poo to go through with it? Look, I'm sure we can find a way to strengthen it. A way that doesn't involve making it logically impossible to open," specified Jeff.

"It's not going to sit well with the Saturns..." said Dr. Andonuts, "Ah, I have an idea!"

"What is it, dad?"

"Did I mention that I also made some progress with the clones?"


Porky's first indication that something was different about this particular dimension was that his Porkies existed again. Each of his alternate bodies had appeared on the Capsule's radar one by one, little green blips flashing into existence in a cluster somewhere just in range of the sensors. That the Caspule hadn't registered them as potential threats for some obscure reason and jumped him straight back out of the dimension told him his plan was beginning to work.

Persuading the Capsule that he was taking psychological damage took him a long time. The Capsule hadn't been programmed to understand or treat psychological distress in humans, apart from the purely physiological symptoms that its life-support systems could counteract. However, he had a long time, all the time in the Universe, and he had the greatest possible motivation. Once the Capsule understood that its stringent requirements for a 'safe' dimension and his constant incarceration in near total sensory deprivation were driving him insane, and that the insanity would eventually lead to Porky's lack of identity as a person, resulting in the loss of the individual that the Capsule was programmed to preserve, it agreed to find him a dimension where time flowed in a vaguely linear manner, where he could fully sense and interact with the world outside the Capsule and, under certain conditions, leave its confines.

One of the factors that finally persuaded the Capsule that he would voluntarily remain safe was his seeming reluctance to leave it, even as he was begging it to let him leave. He had no intention of putting himself in any danger. He didn't even want to speak to anyone who might say or think unkind things about him, or, in fact, speak to anyone at all. He was well aware that he had no friends, whichever dimension he existed in. He was barred from most dimensions he tried to visit by some kind of multidimensional immigration authority. The one dimension he had ensured would contain friends – by invading, conquering and tightly controlling every aspect of it – had been taken back off him, then something like this had happened to him. The survivors had been happy to see his influence gone from their world. Most of them even said they thought he had deserved his fate, no matter how bad it was. Now he had a friend again; he knew that the Capsule was his friend because it was fundamentally incapable of not wishing his safety and, now that he had explained the notion to it, his happiness. Dr. Andonuts had done a thorough job. His new friend wasn't his mental image of a true friend – it obey his orders like the Pigmasks had done - but it was acceptable as a friend. As it was his only friend left in the galaxy, he allowed it to be his friend. He didn't want his friends to leave him again.

Dimensional anchoring complete. Compatibility checks reveal no paradox. Full exposure to dimension immanent.

Five seconds after the calm, reassuring voice finished spouting technobabble at him, the panels in front of his observation screens slid open and he could see the new world he was in.

"I'm in outer space," he said, his voice slightly awkward as his new body responded clumsily to his instructions to speak. The Capsule didn't allow him to enter dimensions where his body could change, and therefore decay, but it had been slowly restoring his physical condition, as it was deemed unsafe to be so near death, but now it seemed brand new, "Cool."

I appear to have been adapted for long haul space flight. Interesting.

It was the first time the Capsule had betrayed any such signs of a personality as being interested in the world around it or anything else apart from its core programming, "My Porkies all survived in this dimension. Can we go find them? I'd be safer if I had my Porkies, that's..."

What they were designed for, as was I. I recorded all the information given to me about them. You can navigate using your neural uplink. Just set a co-ordinate and I will take you to it. Do you wish me to warp you to the nearest station where you can upgrade your clones?

Porky nodded. He was about to comment that maybe his other friends, such as his robotic maid, were there too, but the instant he had the thought of wanting to move, the Capsule made a noise like a dustbin wagon and space around him began to ripple into a tunnel of light that he was propelled down at unimaginable high speed...

… Before emerging, still spinning, in cold, dark, silent space. It was a starless region, and as the Capsule rolled to a halt and hung there, suspended in an all-consuming blackness, Porky wondered whether he had been tricked again, and he had been put back into suspended animation. Something primal told him that he was in a place where nobody was his friend.

Incoming! Attempting to warp awa-

Then the darkness spilled out of his senses, pierced by a brilliant crimson light that washed over him, burning his eyes, hurting his ears. Red lights were blinking and an alarm was sounding. Pain, so much excruciating agony in every cell of his body, making him feel so much more alive than he had ever felt in his entire life...

Darkness again. Then a bright white light, bringing with it a pounding headache and nausea as he was wrenched back into consciousness by what felt like the hand of a particularly vindictive deity.

"... apologise for the slight delay," said a remorselessly institutional female voice, and he was shoved through a door into his Capsule while the voice talked at him about insurance.

Connection regained. Welcome back, Porky.

He groaned and dimmed the lights. As usual, he didn't remember much of what happened in those final hours. That part of his life had been burned away from him. He had the impression a lot more had been lost this time, though. His head still hurt when the comforting grape-flavoured glow of Quafe (he knew he was too fat and he needed to stay off the Quafe, but he didn't care, he liked being fat, because rich people were fat and he liked being rich) enveloped his senses, and even as he struggled to remember, he couldn't shake off the memories that didn't belong: something about a really, really long journey, even compared to usual, and the words 'Absolutely Safe'.

Bull crap. He hated scams. Nothing was safe.