The squeegee squeaked against the dusty window of the fifth floor office building that overlooked downtown Eiru on Pyracan.
Billy Lucas carried that black plastic tool with him like a sacred scepter, a holy relic from a lost age, but he liked to think that he wielded it with the finesse of a sharp-eyed gunslinger.
He’d been using it that afternoon in 1985, high above the streets of Manhattan, to clean the windows of the Chrysler Building. Then came the eruption of luminescence, God’s own blue-light special or the hand of fate. Whatever. It snatched him out of the realm of Reaganomics and into a 27th Century universe full of aliens and humans who got around the galaxy in faster-than-light starships.
Pretty damned cool.
But he didn’t know how to fly a fancy spaceship. He couldn’t speak many Earth languages besides English, let alone all the weird tongues heard in the vaulted cavities inside Comorro Station. He wasn’t a techy. He didn’t know how to hunt.
He could clean a window, though. Knew how to make it shine. Everyone wanted clean windows, no matter what century, right?
So, Billy bartered his grandfather’s silver pocket watch, hitched a shuttle to Pyracan, settled in among other human refugees, and found work as a freelancer. He’d been here for about a year.
It wasn’t hero work, but it kept a roof over his head. A few more gigs like this, Billy figured he could afford a ring for Meghan.
He dipped the squeegee in the water bucket, shaking it about, getting it soaked again for the next pane. Then he felt the suspended platform rattle. Earthquake? Not unheard of in Eiru, but rare. Billy looked up to make sure the ropes and pulleys weren’t tearing loose. So far, they looked fine. He looked down toward the street. Flashes of blue light – a bunch of them – rips in space and time, he thought, just like the one that grabbed him from the 20th Century.
He didn’t recognize the sinuous little bipedal reptiloids that came out of them, armed with really big rifles. The absurdity of the sight would’ve made him laugh under other circumstances. The thing is, they almost immediately started gunning people down in the street. Sooner or later, they might look up and shoot him. Or Meghan might be down there. Nothing funny about that.
Billy fumbled for the commlink in his pocket. He wanted to call Meghan and warn her. But then the rifts snapped shut with a thunderous consequence. Billy was staring at his own reflection in that perfectly cleaned window pane, link in one hand and dripping squeegee in the other, when it exploded.