Playing the Long Odds

Von Halparin cracks into existence again with a whoop and jackknifes over, spewing stomach acid and bile into the long grass he finds himself in. He nearly turns himself inside out. When he gets control of his gag reflex, he wipes his eyes dry and straightens out shakily.

“Hell,” he drawls. “Next time I’m eatin’ a sandwich before I jump. Leastaways I’d have somethin’ to show for myself rather than this black muck.” There’s no one around to hear him, but that doesn’t bother Von Halparin – he’s gotten used to solitude during the last ten years. Even at the Center he’s kept isolated, in case he brings something infectious or achronistic back with him. He talks to himself. It passes the time.

His memory’s faulty, of course; they can’t send him back knowing too much, for one thing, and for another the Jump itself plays jacks with his neurochemistry. Right now he can’t remember where he is, or what language he’s speaking. It’s not English, Russian, or Spanish, but beyond that –

“Eyes on th’ prize, old son,” he tells himself, chewing on the strange, nasal vowels. “Get into th’ city, hit the target, bag his head, get out. Everything else can wait.”

He may not know the language that fills his mouth, but the knife at his belt is familiar and comforting. His stomach growls and Von Halparin sets out to find breakfast and kill a man.