"The Baghdad Debacle"
Time travel turned out to be
something other than expected.
It required both logic and intuition:
you had to know how to get
when you wanted to go,
but you also had to figure out
when the important times even were.
The Logicians built the time machines
and handled the delicate engines,
but the Intuitives monitored the timestream
and determined the actual transitions.
It was not a matter of fixed points in time:
instead it was like playing a game of towers
in which you had to feel out which pieces
pressed others into place, and how
they might be shifted to take the weight off
so that a particular one might be moved.
The Logicians and the Intuitives,
you perceive, each excelled
at different parts of this process.
It became clear rather quickly
that a time traveling team needed
to consist of a Logician and an Intuitive.
People quickly made the mistake of thinking that
this meant time travel was for one man and one woman,
because of course there was men's logic and women's intuition,
but it turned out that there were female Logicians and
male Intuitives, and that was before the genderqueer folks
demonstrated that it was possible for one person
to work both stations of a time machine
(although not simultaneously).
So it was that Judith and Adira paired up,
Logician and Intuitive, both women,
and each determined to learn the other's station
so that they could both touch the towers of time
in whatever way might be required on their trip.
Their time machine stalled out near Baghdad
around 250 BCE while they were investigating a raid.
It was Judith who puttered around with the gear
and declared that it could be started up again if
they cobbled together a jumpstart from local materials
then both got out and pushed.
So they went to the market and found
a dealer in secondhand miscellany
by the name of Barhoomee who was
willing to sell to women who were
accompanied by each other instead of a man.
It was quite a contraption they put together:
a long row of terracotta pots with inserts of iron and copper,
filled with vinegar and spices and other peculiar things,
all strung together with wires and devices and blinking lights
that made no sense whatsoever to Barhoomee.
Neither could he make any sense of the women or
their relationship (whatever that might or might not have been)
because they were most definitely shaped like women
but they spoke and moved around and argued genially
as if they were men and the masters of their own lives.
It came as a relief to Barhoomee when the women
put their shoulders to their strange chariot
and shoved it through a glimmering slit in the air,
taking with it the blinking mess of wires and wedges,
leaving behind only the pots with their odd contents.
The whole Baghdad Debacle was held up as an excuse
not to permit any more same-sex time traveling teams,
but Judith and Adira pointed out with some asperity
that they had managed to get home again, which was
more than could be said for a half-dozen heterosexual teams,
so in the end they went on with their work exactly as they pleased.
* * *
Time travel is a classic science fiction trope, but mine is different. It works like a giant game of Jenga in which the most important events that people usually want to change are pinned in place by the weight of other events, so that changing anything requires a complicated process of moving other things so as to shift the balance of time in the tower to free up that one bit. Unlike many time travel scenarios where characters try to avoid changing anything, this model requires quite a lot of fiddling around.
Women's intuition and men's logic come from the gender binary concept.
The Baghdad Battery refers to some ancient devices of debatable origin and purpose.