Conversations With Myself

A Novel by Altimexis

Book Three – Critical Mass

The Whispers of Time
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Chapter 1 – Superstrings

December 1983 • Chris-17

“That’s certainly an interesting construct, Chris” Marion Dawson noted as he reviewed my notes, “but it looks vaguely familiar,” he added, almost as an afterthought. “Where did you come up with this? Infinite dimensions… vibrating loops… it’s all so bizarre, but yet logical. Quantum mechanics, quarks, leptons, bosons, they all fit into your framework.”

“As do the strong force, the weak force, electromagnetism and gravity,” I pointed out.

“And the way you incorporated the concept of time as a multidimensional vector. It’s really brilliant. Not that it explains the Big Bang itself, but it gets tantalizingly close. I’m really surprised you managed to come up with something this comprehensive in such a short amount of time.”

Such high praise coming from Dawson almost made my head swell, but I needed to keep a level head if we were going to solve the problem of the fragmentation of time – a problem that we may well have created, if what my friend, Frank, said was to be believed.

“Still, I can't help but think I’ve seen this before.” Grabbing a stack of journals that were precariously perched on a corner of his desk, Dawson started riffling through each one, stopping occasionally and focusing on something he found interesting. He finally seemed satisfied he’d found what he was looking for.

“Here you go, Chris,” he said as he handed one of the journals to me, opened to a specific page. Even before I had the journal issue in my hand, the equations leapt off the page of the article to which it was open. The similarity to what I’d just shown my mentor was undeniable.

Flipping back to the beginning of the article, which was written by Schwarz and Scherk, I exclaimed, “String theory? I remember reading something about it when it first came out, but I haven’t seen much on it lately… certainly not in the lay press.”

“I would guess that what you refer to as ‘loops’, the authors refer to as ‘strings’,” Dawson said, stating the obvious. “String Theory made quite a splash in the Physics world when it came out… not just among particle physicists either. There were a number of papers on the subject after that one and significant improvements to the theory too. Nothing as extensive as your approach that I’m aware of, however.”

Reading through the article, which I was able to do quite rapidly, as I’d already derived a set of very similar equations, I noted, “This is definitely the same basic idea, but it only applies to bosons, and there are some major flaws. This article looks like the start of what I’ve done, but with a lot of posturing.”

“With such a radical idea, the authors felt the need to justify themselves,” Dawson explained. “As when Einstein introduced General Relativity, for example, it wasn’t enough to simply posit his theory. No, Einstein had to explain why he felt the need to reject Newtonian dynamics and even the basic premise of Euclidian space. Even then, it was widely known that Newtonian Physics could not explain the behavior of the Universe on a grander scale, but until then, the basic premise was that it was the method of measurement and not a flaw in the basic theory that was to blame. Einstein came up with a better model of the Universe as we knew it, and he came up with ideas as to how we might test his theories. I think you know the outcome of those initial experiments, too.

“The same was true of Quantum Mechanics, and here we have a new theory that is seemingly so complex, yet it does seem to fit our understanding of how particles and waves actually behave. Whereas I didn’t need any explanation to understand the construct, most physicists would. This paper is a direct outgrowth of Nambu, Nielsen, and Susskind’s work using vibrating strings to represent the strong force, but their work contradicted the known experimental data. Still, it was an interesting approach and it garnered a lot of interest that quickly faded.”

Then riffling through another stack of journals, he pulled out another, opened it, apparently to a specific page, and handed it to me. “This is probably the best and most modern presentation of String Theory to date,” he continued. “It’s currently out of favor as there’s no way to test it, so it falls into the realm of purely theoretical physics. However, I strongly suspect we haven’t seen the last of it just yet…

“But your construct is even more complex than theirs. Why is that?”

“Because I came up with it from a different angle,” I explained. “Schwarz and Scherk obviously started with the premise that particle physics had to be explainable by some sort of superset of mathematics, of which quantum mechanics and relativity are a part.”

“They were far from the first to do so,” Dawson added.

“That there are an infinite number of dimensions is a given. In fact, there is nothing to suggest that the number of dimensions is integral —”

“You’re talking about fractals, there,” Dawson interrupted.

“Right, but I’m talking something much more fundamental,” I replied. “I didn’t start by making my theories explain the existing models. I guess you could say I started from scratch. Rather than consider how we might explain particle physics, I looked at why space-time, particles and the fundamental forces of nature might have come into existence in the first place.

“My thought is that the four dimensions of space-time exist as they do because they represent the smallest stable subset in which our existence is possible. One, two and three-dimensional space-time constructs are possible and perhaps much more common, but they are too simple to support the formation of atomic structures, galaxies, stars, planets and anything remotely resembling intelligent life. Likewise, higher-dimensional space-time constructs probably exist, but the added complexity makes them much less common. So there is a very good reason our space-time has exactly four dimensions.

“However, the fundamental building blocks of the Universe by their nature must exist in a potentially infinite number of dimensions and, hence, what we can see and observe of them must be a four-dimensional projection into our own space-time existence. This all came to me out of my need to explain time, not as a single dimension, but as a multidimensional property with alternate pathways. If what we perceive of as time is really a multidimensional construct projected onto a single dimension, then why not postulate that the entirety of space-time is similarly constructed.

“So that got me thinking, what would an electron look like in a potentially infinite number of dimensions? What would any of the bosons, leptons or quarks look like? My fundamental nature is to keep it simple, but there is nothing about the fundamental nature of particle physics that is inherently simple. As Niels Bohr is reported to have said, it’s not up to us to tell God what to do. Perhaps a better way to say it is that the Universe as it exists, cannot be constrained to fit our limited mathematics. Mathematics is, after all, an invention of the human mind that need not be representative of reality. We must therefore find a better way to model reality.”

“Obviously, even though you came at it from a different direction, you aren’t the only one to come up with this type of construct.” Dawson noted. “That actually is a comfort, as it makes your ideas seem far less of a stretch of the imagination. However, your construct is much more complex and comprehensive, as it has to be to explain our postulates about the existence of time. It’s a shame that we don’t have access to the particle accelerators and other in sundry equipment needed to test your hypotheses, but maybe we don’t need to. Perhaps those experiments have already been done —”

Just as I was about to object, as nothing I’d come across in the literature came close to the kind of experiments I knew would be needed, Dawson added the phrase, “in the future.”


December 2004 • Chris-38

As I drifted off to sleep, I felt a familiar presence enter my mind. With practice, the formation of Chris-45’s image in my head happened almost instantaneously now, rather than emerging slowly from the fog as it did when he first came to me in my dreams.

“Chris,” my older counterpart began, “I cannot overemphasize how important it is that you get a message back to Chris-24 immediately. We have reason to believe he has been compromised by the Chinese —”

“What makes you say that?” I asked, incredulous that Chris-45 could ever suggest such a thing. I would never allow myself to be compromised by a foreign power. I could never betray my country. Never in a million years. Nothing would make me do that – not even a threat made against those I loved. That was how I differed from Marion Dawson.

“Nothing?” Chris-45 asked, obviously reading my thoughts. “What if they threatened Andy? What if his life was in imminent danger? Did you not lead Iranian terrorists to your laboratory rather than watch your son die in front of your eyes?”

“I was stalling for time… not betraying my country, and you know it,” I replied. “Just because the terrorists had a gun to my son’s head didn’t mean I was going to give them what they wanted. Taking them to my lab bought precious minutes while I formulated a plan. I opened the door to the lab, but I entered a hostage code, taking a huge risk with both Andy's life and mine. I’d have never let the Iranians have the actual documents associated with OTT. If necessary, I’d have blown the whole house up. The lab was wired with explosives, after all. It was only because of Jen coming home and surprising the terrorists that I didn’t actually do that.”

“That, and that you didn’t want to cause a paradox by killing yourself before you could invent TTT in the future.”

“Exactly,” I agreed.

“But could you really have pushed the button?” Chris-45 responded. God, he was persistent.

”Absolutely,” I stated with conviction, “and you know that. If there had been no other way.”

After a long pause, Chris-45 asked, “What do you remember about Wang Lee?”

“Wang Lee? Boy, that’s a name I haven’t heard in a very long time,” I replied.

“That’s a name we weren’t supposed to have heard at all,” Chris-45 responded, shocking me to the core. “The first time through, there was no Wang Lee at Stanford. From what we can tell, he never even existed. Of course he undoubtedly did exist, but very likely under a different identity.”

“You mean Wang Lee was spy?” I asked.

“What do you remember about him?” Chris-45 again asked.

“He was a graduate student in the lab at the end of my dissertation,“ I replied. “We became friends shortly after Andy was born and I guess we were close. I remember spending a lot of time with him, but that's all I remember.”

“Do you remember having an affair with him?” Chris-45 asked, again shocking me.

“NO!” I practically shouted. “You know as well as I do that we had an affair with Paul, but then Jen became pregnant and that was it. Once a baby was in the picture, we broke it off with Paul and remained faithful to Jen throughout, until the day she confronted us.”

“Did we marry Jen?” Chris-45 asked. I was about to answer that of course we did, but then I couldn’t remember it.

“The first time around,” Chris-45 continued, we did get married. We got married, we lived together as husband and wife and we had two children, Andy and a daughter, who’s name I don’t even remember.”

“I too sense that we had a daughter,” I added. “Every now and then, her existence pops into my consciousness, but it seems more like a dream now, rather than what really happened. I guess the knowledge of having had a daughter is so strong, it transcends the alternate realities of time, but how could we have had a daughter. We broke up with Jen, not long after Andy was born,” I remembered as it started to come back to me.

“In the current reality, yes, we did,” Chris-45 agreed, “but your very own records, if you go back and read them, will reinforce what I’m telling you tonight. We married Jen and we remained a married couple even after she confronted us about being gay. We stayed together for some sixteen years.”

“But she was killed by terrorists!” I exclaimed.

“There were no terrorists in the original time line,” Chris-45 reminded me.

“But I remember breaking up with Jen when we were still in graduate school.”

“In the original time line, we stayed together until Andy was almost finished with high school,” Chris-45 reiterated, and then he again asked, “What do you remember about Wang Lee, and about breaking up with Jen?”

“I don’t remember having an affair with him,” I reiterated, “although we did spend a lot of time together. Jen and I broke up when she confronted me about… she alleged that —”

“That we were having an affair with Wang Lee,” Chris-45 said, completing my sentence.

“She wondered why I crashed at his place when it was actually farther from the lab than our place was. It would have been closer to have simply gone home. But why would I have broken up with Paul, only to have then had an affair with Wang? Paul and I are back together, by the way.”

“I know you are, but that’s beside the point right now,” Chris-45 continued. “Why did Jen allege that we had an affair with Wang?”

“Because we did?” I asked more than I answered. “But then how come I don’t remember any of it?”

“This is where it really get’s murky,” Chris-45 started to explain. “If we succeed in convincing Chris-24 to break up with Wang, then I have no doubt that we’ll have vivid memories of the whole affair. Until there is a resolution of some sort, however, our memories will remain nebulous, but we should at least remember having had an affair with him. That we don’t remember the affair at all is worrisome. We’ve been giving it a lot of thought, and the only explanation that we’ve been able to come up with is that, if the Chinese do succeed in getting their hands on TTT, that they’ll attempt to eradicate traces of how they acquired it by erasing their tracks.”

“You mean they’ll use TTT to rewrite history, undoing my affair with Wang?” I asked. “Don’t they realize that that will cause a paradox?”

“I’m sure the scientists associated with OTT in China are aware of this, but they aren’t the ones who call the shots. Chinese intelligence is sophisticated, but it’s run by bureaucrats. Bureaucrats who don’t understand the underlying science behind TTT. Bureaucrats who don’t want to understand the science. Bureaucrats whose primary interest is in being invisible. To them, using TTT to cover up the evidence of their spy activities is both logical and expeditious. That it would create a paradox is something the scientists aren’t likely to bring up, out of fear for their own skins.

“Perhaps you’ve forgotten, but the Russians tried to do the same thing, and failed. Perhaps they’re still trying.”

“Such a paradox would likely form a loop,” I suggested.

“A loop without a resolution that would likely result in a highly uncertain future,” Chris-45 agreed.

“This could be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back,” I added as realization dawned on me.

“It could be the reason the world comes to an end,” Chris-45 agreed.

“So at the least, we need to get Chris-24 to break up with Wang Lee,” I replied, “and figure out how to stop the Russians too.”

Sighing, Chris-45 responded, “I wish it were that simple. The Chinese, if nothing else, are known for being resourceful, and they’re persistent. If Chris-24 breaks up with Wang Lee, the Chinese will try a different approach. They’ll try hacking into his computer or, failing that, they’ll kidnap him and torture him until he talks.”

Gulping, I responded, “How the fuck do we keep them from doing that?”

“We have to convince Chris-24 not to break up with Wang. We have to get him to feed Wang just enough information to make him believe he’s getting the real thing, mixed with just enough disinformation to keep the Chinese from ever bringing TTT to fruition.

“Unfortunately, not only do you need to talk Chris-31 into contacting Chris-24, but you need to talk him into convincing a naturally skeptical, love-struck Chris-24 to violate his lover’s trust. I suggest you try to reach Chris-31 tonight.”


The contact with Chris-31 had been exhausting, and that was on top of having had a conversation with Chris-45 in the same night. And thanks to the terrorist incident, contacting my younger self wasn’t a simple matter of heading down to my lab in the basement. No, I was still under house arrest, which meant I had to wake up Jack, explain why it couldn’t wait until the morning, and meet him at the lab at the ungodly hour of three o’clock in the fucking morning.

Chris-31 was even more stubborn than I had been, but at the end of the day, it was he that came up with a positively brilliant plan to get Chris-24 and TTT out of harm’s way without him or the Chinese being aware of it.

“You positively look like shit,” Jack exclaimed as I returned to full consciousness.

“It’s not like I got any real sleep last night,” I related, “but there’s not much point in going home. Speaking of which, where is everybody?”

“In case you’ve forgotten, it’s Saturday, Chris,” Jack reminded me with a laugh. “Why don’t you go home and get some rest. And spend some time with your son, for God’s sake.”

Too tired to say anything and probably too tired to drive, I simply nodded, put my brain on autopilot and got in my car. Fortunately, there was no traffic to speak of and I made it home without incident.

Dressed only in a pair of skimpy shorts, I found Andy seated at the kitchen table, a steaming mug of coffee in his hand and – what the Hell? – my copies of Professor Dawson’s lecture notes spread out all over the table. What really peaked my curiosity, however, was that he had a copy of my PhD dissertation in his other hand.

“A little light reading, Tiger?” I asked with what I’m sure must have been an amused expression on my face, as I grabbed my own mug of coffee.

“Dad,” he responded, “You know how much I hate it when you call me Tiger.”

“But I’ve always called you Tiger,” I replied, causing him to blush. “It’s not easy to change, you know. I’ll probably still be calling you Tiger, even when you’re in your fifties.

“Not to change the subject, but I thought you weren’t even interested in physics, although you certainly have the aptitude for it. I thought you were interested in Biology or Medicine,” I added. “What are you doing with my lecture notes… and my PhD thesis?” I asked.

“Biomedical Engineering,” he answered. “I’m interested in Biomedical Engineering, which I’m discovering actually uses some of this shit, but that’s not why I reading this stuff now.

“It’s all fucked up, Dad. Everything’s fucked up.”

I could let his use of ‘shit’ slide, but I wasn’t about to let him get away with saying ‘fuck’ like that. Just as I was about to object, however, Andy interrupted my thoughts by saying, “No, Dad. I’m gonna use the ‘F word’, so get over it. This is adult shit and it’s fucking scary as Hell. I have a right to say ‘fuck’, ’cause we’re talking end of the world kinda shit here. And even if you manage to save the world, the only way may be if… if… I was never born,” Andy related as tears started to flow from his eyes.

I was around the table in milliseconds and soon had a sobbing fifteen-year-old boy in my arms. Andy might be precocious and he might even be capable of reading and understanding my dissertation, although I doubted it, but underneath it all, he was still just a teenager. He was an adolescent with raging hormones and lacking the experience to deal with overpowering emotions.

Hugging my son tightly and rubbing his back gently, I asked, “What ever in the world makes you think that?”

Pulling slightly away from me, getting his emotions under control and looking up at me, he responded, “Dad, I may be a child, but I’m not stupid. I want… no, need for you to be honest with me. I know that things are changing. You know I keep a journal, and I’ve been writing things down since I was eight. Lately, I’ve noticed that my memory doesn’t always match what I’ve written down. Yet if I go back later, the journal entries have changed. I know this, because I can remember the original discrepancy, even if I can’t remember what the discrepancy was.

I couldn’t help but wonder what fifteen-year-old uses ‘discrepancy’ in a sentence, but the seriousness of what he was saying had me terrified. If Andy was aware there had been changes in the time line, how many others out there were similarly aware, and what did that imply about the possible end of us all?

“I read all of Dawson’s lecture notes,” he went on, “and I read your dissertation. I never went to bed last night, but then I guess you didn’t either. You were so out of it when you left here that you didn’t even notice me, sitting right here in the kitchen. You didn’t even notice that the lights were on, and you left me in the dark when you left!

“Anyway,” he continued, “I’ve read through all this shit, and I think I understand it, maybe even better than you do.” Picking up one of the last in the series of Dawson’s lecture notes, he went on, “This stuff on String Theory… it’s not complete. Some of it’s just plain wrong, but I think you prolly already know that —”

“I derived the equations for Superstring Theory when I was not much older than you,” I interrupted.

“But that was after you’d already fucked up time, wasn’t it?” my son interjected. How did he know?

As if sensing my thought, he continued, “Dad, it’s obvious what you’ve done. Your dissertation postulates the existence of quantum states paired in time. But that’s not how it works, is it?” Pulling out a pad of paper from under one of the stacks of lecture notes, he showed me what he’d written on it. When he did so, I audibly gasped. Andy had written down a set of equations that looked remarkably similar to the ones I’d written when I was seventeen, except that his equations had extra terms. Pointing to those extra terms, he continued, “I’m guessing your derivation lacked these terms. These terms can’t be ignored. It’s a mistake I think everyone must make… the assumption being that time is locally constant. It’s not, as I’m sure you’ve come to realize.”

Flipping the page, Andy continued, “I’ve defined a series of mathematical operators that relate to the conventional operators as shown here.” Good God – Andy wasn’t just a genius – he was another Einstein!

Sensing my bewilderment, Andy went on. “I know they look complicated, but they’re not. They’re actually pretty intuitive if you look at the universe as an ‘n’ factorial dimensional space, where ‘n’ is a prime integer. For our universe, ‘n’ equals three, which is a good thing, ’cause it means we can completely describe the universe with just six dimensions. As you know, the next prime number is five, which results in a sixty-dimensional space! Something tells me that an ‘n=5’ universe doesn’t come along every day.

“Oh, and the reason you don’t see non-prime spatial universes is that they’re unstable. I can prove it. An ‘n=4’ space, which has 24 dimensions, for example, will always split into a combination of up to four ‘n=3’ universes and twelve ‘n=2’ universes. Always. An ‘n=6” universe with its 360 dimensions will split into a combination of prime number universes, such that the total number of dimensions remains 360 in aggregate. Am I making sense?”

Shaking my head in bewilderment, not really understanding where my son was going with this, I instead responded, “What fifteen-year-old boy uses a word like ‘aggregate’?” Which caused us both to crack up. I continued, “Andy, this all sounds like pure conjecture. Where is it coming from? Do you have anything to back it up?”

Andy again flipped the page to reveal a single equation that, although not as simple as ‘e=mc2’, was every bit as profound. “This simple equation is equivalent to all the other simultaneous equations, when written in terms of the new operators,” Andy continued. “It’s not that the operators are complicated… it’s that conventional mathematics is inadequate to the task of deriving a theory of everything.

“This equation defines the way our universe works. It explains how space and time relate to each other and how the dimensionality of space can exist inside the dimensionless nature of a singularity. That is a key difference between conventional String Theory and what I have done. In String Theory, there can be an infinite number of dimensions. In my formulation, there are no dimensions until they’re created in what we have been calling the Big Bang.

“Anyway, time itself is not a dimension, which is why it only seems to act like one in part. You can go anywhere in space, but you have no control over where you are in time. That’s because time is a quantum property that we perceive to be a continuum much as this table,” he said as he knocked on it, “appears to be solid when it’s actually mostly empty space. When you opened a conduit using paired quantum states, you prolly thought you were sending information back in time, but that’s not what happened.

“I remember how things seemed to change on September 11 in 2001. I remember that clearly. I think that what happened is that those planes really did hit the twin towers and maybe the White House or the Capitol —”

“The Pentagon,” I interrupted.

“. . . or the Pentagon,” my son continued. “I’m guessing things didn’t go so well for the world after that, so maybe the President ordered you to send a message back in time to change the past. Or maybe it was just you that wanted to change it, or maybe you had something more personal in mind, but regardless of the reason, you sent a message back in time to yourself and the terrorist attack was thwarted. But that only caused a whole other set of problems and you were forced to go back further in time, and then further still. And every time you intervened, it only made things worse.

“The reason is that time isn’t stochastic —” recognizing the look of shock on my face, my son continued, “Yes, Dad, I know what that means. It’s defined in the seventh set of Dawson’s lecture notes. Anyway, time is itself a quantum property with quantum fluctuations. As macroscopic beings, however, we naturally integrate all those fluctuations and perceive time as a continuum.

“But when you send information about the future back in time, you’re not really altering time. You can’t alter time. It would be like trying to change the value of π… the only way to do that is to change the physical geometry of space.

“No, in sending information back in time using paired quantum states, you’re creating singularities in space-time. Dad, there must be millions of tiny quantum singularities in space-time by now, and that doesn’t even take into account what the Russians and the Chinese must be doing, not to mention the Iranians if they ever succeed in getting their hands on this stuff. Ultimately, all of those tiny singularities will coalesce into a single singularity and a black hole will form in this region of space and everything will be consumed by it.”

“That’s exactly what we think might happen in 2012,” I responded, “but we’ve never really understood how it might happen. We theorized that it was how a fractured web of time could repair itself. I’m going to have to take a look at your equations. It sounds like maybe there's something to them… at least maybe they can explain what we expect will happen.”

“2012,” my son commented. “Isn’t that the year the Mayan calendar supposedly ends?”

“I wouldn’t know about that,” I replied with a laugh.

“These extra terms,” Andy reiterated as he flipped back to the first page and pointed to his equations, “they explain the disruption of space-time caused by altering the randomness of paired quantum states. They also give us a way out, but the solution may not be easy, especially for me —”


December 1989 • Chris-24

“I’m really impressed by Charles Hudson,” I brought up with Wang Lee as we drove home to our apartment.

“He’s not at all what you were expecting, is he?” Wang replied.

“No, he’s not,” I agreed. “He’s funny, he’s smart... he’s absolutely charming.”

“And what did you think about his relationship with Huang Quo?” Wang asked.

“That was the biggest surprise of all,” I began. “I mean, it was obvious they are in a sexual relationship, yet it wasn’t at all what I would have expected from a pedophile.”

“Pederast!” Wang reminded me. “Huang is a teenager. He’s fourteen. Charles would never touch him if he were any younger than twelve.”

“That’s still awfully young to be making decisions about having sex, particularly sex with an older man,” I countered.

“But what did you actually observe?” Wang pressed me.

Sighing, I replied, “Charles obviously cares a great deal about Huang, and Huang really seems to enjoy and appreciate the affection he gets from Charles.”

“Huang’s background is not unlike my own,” Wang continued. “He was horribly abused and Charles effectively bought him out from slavery. Charles gave him hope, and love. He’ll see to it that he’s protected and that he gets a full college education, with graduate or professional school if he wants it. Charles is Huang’s father, his mentor… and his lover.”

“I get that,” I responded, “but the world would still view Charles as a monster.”

“That ‘monster’ saved my life,” Wang reiterated. It gave me much to think about. “All I ask is that you keep an open mind, particularly as you meet the others who shaped my life.”

Rather than say anything, I simply nodded my head as we pulled up in front of the apartment building where Wang and I shared our lives. As it had been a very long day and since it was after midnight, we wasted little time in getting ready for bed. Sex was just about the furthest thing from my mind as I slipped under the covers and gave Wang a quick peck on the lips, and then wished him a good night. Sleep came quickly after that.

But as I drifted off to sleep, I felt a familiar presence enter my mind…

The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of David of Hope and Anthony Camacho in editing this story, as well as the support of Awesome Dude for hosting it.
This story is purely fictional and any resemblance of characters to real individuals other than named historical figures is purely coincidental and unintentional. Some characters may be gay and at times engage in homosexual acts. Because the story explores characters at various stages of their lives, they may be underage during early sexual explorations. Obviously, anyone uncomfortable with this should not be reading the story, and the reader assumes responsibility for the legality of reading this type of story where they live. The author retains full copyright, and permission must be obtained prior to duplication of the story in any form.