The dead city lay before me cloaked in snow, a cold funereal shroud.
I don't like dead cities. You can never tell what killed them, or what might still be lurking in their ruins. This one looked fairly intact, which was actually a very bad sign. Radiation, that I could deal with. Biological agents, that was a whole different ballgame. Fortunately the cold made it unlikely that there were a lot of active bugs in the air, but I wasn't about to chance it. I touched a button.
The snow melted away and was replaced with green grass. The hillside I was perched on looked vaguely similar to the one I had just been on, but the hills were a little more rounded. The trees looked unfamiliar, and a strange reptilian-looking bird perched on some sort of ginko-analog. I cued my smart contacts to zoom in.
It definitely looked like a bird and a gecko had had some sort of love child. My earbuds were picking up a lot of strange animal noises as well. Down in the valley where the dead city had/did/had the potentiality to sit there was a small town of stone buildings. The architecture was alien to my eye, and the proportions were subtly off. This world was a bit too far off the beaten path for me. Likely whoever was building down there wasn't even human. Time to spin the wheel again.
Winter again. It usually was in most of the worlds with a recognizable continental structure. The city had reappeared, but one look could tell you it was living. Smoke rose from chimneys, boats sailed the river that bisected it, glass glittered in the windows. Time to see what could be seen.
A lot of people ask me why I court death by worldjumping. There's no way to scout out the way, you just press the button and take your chances. There's only out and back. The Jumper adjusts you to the local norms, but cannot do more than that. It also can't make sure you have oxygen at the other end. Once you leave, you can never find the place you've visited. It's lost among the infinitiy of infinities that make up the multiverse.
Still, there was a lot to be said for it. Imagine finding a world where World War I never occurred. I did. It's hard to conceive just how many lives are altered by such an immense conflict. All I had to do was sneak down to the local library and start reading novels. There were dozens of authors who had never existed in our world, or who had died unmourned in a Verdun trench. I found Maurice Marchad's Elegy for the Empire on that trip. That trip paid for my living expenses for an entire year.
I've brought back novels, music, inventions large and small. The gear I wore into these worlds were the legacy of my predecessors: Contacts with Exabite computers fabricated into them, unassuming clothing able to stop bullets, earbuds able to translate any known tongue, and able to extrapolate meaning on the fly from word usage.
Our world had become the perfect parasite since we discovered Jumper technology. We took a bit here, and a bit there. Nothing other than IP, I was limited to basically what I could carry. We had become very proficient in mimicing our hosts.