He doesn't believe me, but he's thinking it over. He should be, it's a good deal. "What about my stuff?" he asks, looking at the overloaded shopping cart. I glance it over, looks to be mostly blankets and trash.
"I can promise that you'll have more stuff, better stuff, when I'm finished. If there's anything that has sentimental value, let me know and I'll keep that safe." He nods, then just stands there thinking.
"A year." Less isn't enough time to be worth it, and more feels like too much to take from one person. This guy will go for it, I'm certain. He's not crazy, but he's desperate enough to believe me. Plus there's nobody to miss him, nobody I have to fool. The perfect candidate for reform. Finally he grumbles agreement, and while he's writing down his personal information an enormous pickup parks beside us.
"Carl! Perfect timing, our new friend here has just agreed to my business proposition. Are you ready to take the old one to his apartment?" Carl, still climbing out of the truck, looks distracted.
"Sure, boss. No problem. I need to talk to you, though. I've been keeping an eye on the news like you asked, and that lab you said you used to work for got raided by the feds. Not sure why - but a bunch of scientists are under arrest now."
I don't know if this is good news or bad. Did they arrest me - or rather, whatever stole my body? I might have to arrange to bump into a prison guard... but that's for later. If I do that I have to plan, have to be careful. No point in laying low for four years only to hand myself to them.
"Okay, Carl. Thanks for telling me. For now we'll just do business as usual. You ready for me to make the switch?"
Carl says everything is ready, so I turn back to my smelly new friend. I take the paper with his information and glance it over, then hand it and a broken pocketwatch that he wants kept safe to Carl. I pass my keys and cell phone to the homeless man - Justin, the paper said, who shoves them in his grimy pockets and looks at me nervously. Now for the part I hate. I carefully slide the elastic band off of my bicep, making sure that the Device doesn't fall out. I place them in the man's hand without letting go, and look him in the eye.
"Okay, Justin. You're going to black out for a second, and then it will be a year later and you'll be looking at someone else instead of me. Are you ready?" He nods, and I let go.
With only the briefest flicker of darkness I'm Justin - looking at what I've thought of as myself for the last year but is actually Herman Jones. I slide the elastic band on and tuck the Device in, then try to address the body I've vacated. He's turning to Carl, of course, because what seems like a second ago to him Carl was handing him the Device.
"Over here, Herman." The man turns, still in shock. "As agreed, it's a year later. Carl here will pay you - he'll also be your boss unless you want to quit and get a new job. Your system is clean; I don't want you doing drugs anymore, let me tell you withdrawal was hell and you should be glad you missed it. We have an apartment set up for you, and a summary of the last year for you to look at. Once you've done that if you still have questions you can talk to Carl about it. He's been through the same thing, okay?" Herman is just staring at me, but that's fine. He'll figure it out.
"Carl, I'm going to get washed up and grab some clothes. I'll take the day off to get comfortable in my skin and I'll see you at the office tomorrow." I'm itchy, and dirty, and already I can feel some sort of ache from an old injury, but somehow this is still my favorite time of year.