Based on a plot outline suggestion by the Owner of the Breast Expansion Archive. The story poses a number of questions about the theory of time travel, and answers probably none of them. Some suspension of disbelief will be required by the reader.
NOTE: This version of the story includes some modification to keep it within site rules.
IT WASN'T really a time machine. Not your usual time machine with all those flashing lights, where you sit in a chair and turn up sometime else. The world had obviously moved on since H G Wells's day.
"It's in this lorry," said Professor Anstruther, slapping the side of the truck with the flat of his hand. It made a dead, slightly hollow sound, as if the metal sides of the vehicle were several inches thick. Sue stood in the staff car park at the university and looked up at it. She'd seen this plain white-painted truck parked there, outside a doorway marked 'Temporal Physics'. It had been there for months, becoming part of the scenery. It didn't have 'Time Machine' painted on the sides.
"Why build it in a van?" Sue asked, still awed by the size of the thing close up. "What was wrong with having it indoors, in the lab?"
"Because it has to be mobile, of course," the professor said sharply. "It's no use having it here, is it?"
"Of course not! How could you possibly expect it to work here?" The professor waved his arms around, encompassing the car park, the Department of Sciences, the campus itself.
"It does work, though?"
"Why do you ask?" Professor Anstruther narrowed his eyes. "You have a need to travel through time?"
"That's why I'm here. I told you, I'm writing a paper on the retrospective socio-historic impact of revised quasi-minor pre-contemporaneous events."
"The effect of simple decisions on subsequent history. If the internal combustion engine or the atomic bomb hadn't worked, if Hitler's mother had a headache..."
"A headache?" The professor looked confused.
Sue rolled her eyes. "Never mind. I really would find it ever so useful to be able to study such phenomena at first hand."
"You wouldn't be allowed to change anything. That's the primary rule of personal time displacement technology. If you went back to 1939 and..."
"I appreciate that, Professor. All I want is to be an observer, to spend a brief time at a number of critical periods in history. We can speculate until we're blue in the face, but none of us was there to tell what it was really like."
The professor seemed to make a decision. "Come inside," he said, producing a bundle of keys on a chain and thrusting one into a padlock attached to the side door of the white van. The door swung open silently. "I'll go up first and put the lights on." He clattered up the metal steps and opened an inner door.
Sue followed him. The van was surprisingly warm inside.
"We leave the heating on full time to keep the equipment at a constant temperature. When the engine is running, it powers all the systems. You're not interested in the mechanical aspects, the electronics... ?" It was phrased as a question, but it was a statement. "Silent generator up the front, sound insulation, computer system in the cabinet on the left, extra-high frequency radio equipment on the right. We generate a field approximately two point three metres wide, extending one point nine metres outwards from the back of the lorry. The subject will have to stand in this field to be transported. We've more or less wholly eliminated problems with the temporal-spacial displacement factor due to shift in the earth's magnetic field over a period of time; and the initial difficulties with time control, i.e. the control over the actual number of years, days, seconds that the subject is displaced is now pretty well sorted out." Sue carefully unglazed her eyes and nodded. The professor was one of those people who actually said i.e. in the middle of a sentence.
"So in other words, it's all working perfectly?"
"More or less, yes."
Which was what Sue thought. There were a few too many 'more or lesses' and 'pretty wells' in the professor's description, but he seemed pretty well confident of the time machine's capabilities. More or less. "How long would I have to wait for my turn?"
"Your ... turn?"
"How long before I could make a trip? I suppose the machine is fairly well occupied most of the time?"
Professor Anstruther collected himself with an effort. "Er ... there would be a slight delay before we could accept your booking, but only a few days. You mean you do want to travel?"
"Of course!" Sue wasn't as confident as she sounded, but this was the opportunity of a lifetime. "What do I need to do?"
"Leave it with me. I'll run a full systems check tomorrow, then my assistant will need to work on the bugs. Say next Monday evening? It's a full moon."
"A full moon?" Sue looked at him in surprise. "Well, sure. Why not? You mean I can just come along on Monday and tell you where ... I mean, when... I want to go to and you'll, like, dial it in straight away?"
"More or less. Be here at seven." The interview was evidently at an end. Professor Anstruther walked down the middle of the van, turning off lights. He flung open the door. "After you, Miss... ?"
"Susan Bullinger." She clambered awkwardly down the steps on to the ground. It was chilly outside the cosy vehicle, and starting to get dark. The professor was already striding away. "Just a minute!"
He stopped and turned round impatiently. "What is it?"
"Is that it? I just turn up at seven on Monday? Do I need any luggage or anything?"
"Luggage? You're not going anywhere! Whenever you get to when you're going, you will already have an existence, a home of some sort, clothes, pets, a family. You can't change any of it, so if it's not to your taste, that's unfortunate. But it's only for a month. Twenty-eight days, to be precise. More or less."
"A month? But..."
"It has to be. We're using a lunar phase lock. We deliver you at full moon, and we have to collect you at the next full moon, from precisely the same place. We make the necessary adjustments. All you have to do is identify the exact spot, and be there."
"But what if... ?" But Sue was talking to herself.
"Time travel? A time machine? Are you off your head, or what?" Marianne sat on her bed, then rolled on her back, giggling. As she was naked, it was a disturbing sight. Of course, after almost a year, Sue was getting used to having this naked room-mate. These biological types were all a bit weird about their bodies. "Where are you going in this thing, anyway? Or should I say when are you going?"
"On Monday night."
"That's not what I meant. How many years are you going? And in which direction?"
"Backwards, of course. It's in connection with my paper, so I'll have to go backwards. I don't know how far. Maybe to one of the great crossroads of history, that would be fun. To be a spectator at world-forming events. To live in interesting times..."
"It's pretty interesting now," said Marianne, sitting up and reaching for her clean underclothes. "Especially tonight. You sure you don't fancy a double date? I can fix you up with a presentable boy. More or less."
"Not tonight. Thanks all the same. I've got too much to do if I'm going to be away."
"Suit yourself. Hey, Barry's going to flip when I tell him my room-mate's a time-traveller!"
"Don't you dare! Marianne, no! This has got to be absolutely confidential. If word got out that I was travelling in time, there'd be all hell let loose. The Uni would be sending a search party. I'll only be gone for a month."
Marianne sat bolt upright, her breasts spilling unheeded out of her bra to flop on to her round belly. "A month?" She looked up at the calendar, which featured a big-breasted model on a camel. She was wearing only an Arab-style headdress. The camel was naked. "You'll be back for Christmas, at least. Wait a minute! You'll miss the Christmas Ball!"
"Tough! Big deal! I wouldn't have been going anyway. Christmas Balls and I don't agree."
"Shit, Suze! I could have lined up a real dishy male for you this time. Not like last year's. A friend of Barry's. He plays football for the college. Got a lovely bum."
"Thanks, but he doesn't really sound like my type."
Marianne reloaded her bra and looked up. "Suze, don't get me wrong, but ... you haven't had a boyfriend since I've known you. Hardly a date, even. Is it ... I mean, would you... ?"
"I'm not a lesbian, if that's what you're thinking."
"I wasn't. What I meant, is it because of your figure?"
Sue blushed instantly. "What about my figure?"
"Nothing. I mean, you're lovely and slim and everything. Not like my fat arse. It's just ... your bust. Oops! I'm a poet and I didn't..."
"There's nothing wrong with my bust..."
"There's nothing wrong with it, no. You just haven't really got one. Nothing personal or anything. Sue? Suze, come back! I think maybe there's something I can do to help..."
By the time Sue returned to the room, Marianne had gone out, leaving an almost visible haze of musky perfume behind her. There was a brief note scrawled on the mirror in lipstick.
Sorry! My big mouth again...
.... There is more of this story ...