Donovan stepped out of the mini-cab onto the curb. In front of him, the US Robotics and Mechanical Men Corporation headquarters hunkered, a squat edifice of concrete and steel, as if unconsciously echoing the design of the robots made within. A cool breeze tugged at Donovan's red hair, and he shivered. It was actually fairly balmy for that time of year in New York, but he was in no mood to be charitable about the weather. It was chillier than where he had been, and that was all that mattered.
Powell had finished giving the cabbie the number of their account with the USRMMC. He prodded the small of Donovan's back. "Get a move on!"
Donovan realized that he was blocking egress from the cab, and stepped forward. Powell tumbled out, dragging a small bag behind him. "For winter in New York, it's not bad," he noted.
"Yeah, but it's pretty blasted cold compared to Fiji." Donovan stalked to the guardhouse that stood outside of the headquarters.
A junior engineer was waiting to meet them. Donovan could tell he was a junior engineer not because of his youth, but because of his boundless enthusiasm for all things robotic. He had not yet had it sucked out of him by years of dealing with the tiny, nearly-impossible-to-find, maddening quirks that roboticists had to deal with. Or at least, that he had to deal with. If the other roboticists didn't, he wanted a raise.
"Good to see you two!" the fellow enthused. He had a shock of short brown hair that bounced around as energetically as he did.
"I'd feel better about being here," Powell grumbled as the engineer escorted them through the shack and into the main campus, "if I knew just why we were here. Problems with the TN line?"
"Oh, no!" The engineer twisted his head to face them as he walked, narrowly avoiding a collision with two white-coated scientists who looked at him with disapproval as they moved in an evasive course. "The Teeny robots are doing just super. They passed both beta tests and Release Candidate screening with flying colors!"
"Teeny?" Donovan asked. "I'd have thought they'd be called Tony or Timmy." USRMMC tended to give its robots human names; they had the idea that it made the robots appear friendlier. It certainly helped, Donovan reflected, when the robots were dismissing you in a religious fervor, or singing Gilbert and Sullivan while drunk, or twiddling their massive robotic 'fingers' instead of working.
The engineer shrugged. "It was Calvin's idea. The higher-ups gave her more leeway than usual when it came to the naming - if it hadn't been for her, the Teenies wouldn't have gone out at all..."
"Eh?" asked Powell.
"Well, whenever the robot would be tested in a house with children, it would lock up. Solid." He shook his head. As all three men knew, an irreversibly locked robot was both a huge loss of time and materials and the most useless of outcomes - no information could be retrieved from a fully-locked brain. "Calvin figgered out why as soon as they told her, and that was that."
"What was the issue?" Donovan asked.
"Hey, aincha guys roboticists, too?" asked the engineer, grinning.
"Yep," Donovan growled, "but we're living, breathing humans, unlike Calvin. What was it?"
"Well, they dialed the First Law potential way up. Part of the publicity, it was going to be; the safest robots for domestic use, and all. But you know how kids are - always jostling and swatting and the like. The robot would freeze because it couldn't stop those little hurts in time. Calvin told them to put a threshold on that there First Law potential. It responds fast to First Law, but it's gotta be something more real than whacking with foam swords, yeah?" The engineer grinned more broadly. Donovan wondered if the ends of his lips would touch in the back of his head if he got really happy.
"Well, damn me," Powell replied. "So if we're not here to test robots, why are we here?"
"Dunno," the engineer replied. "I've just been told to take you to the lady."
Lady, Donovan thought as they followed the engineer through the pristine, brightly-lit corridors, was a severe overstatement of the case.
It had been years since Donovan had seen USRMMC headquarters, and the place had changed. It had expanded, for one. Susan Calvin was in a new office, one with an anteroom what was all handsome, dark wood furnishings and somber lighting. An man just as darkly handsome as the furnishings sat at a desk. He was unfamiliar - Donovan was unsurprised at that. The imposing, intolerant-of-fools Calvin rarely kept assistants long. They just could not take her. It was odd that she had one at all, actually, Donovan reflected - hadn't she decided not to bother with them anymore? Well, perhaps she mellowed in her old age. Donovan pointedly ignored the fact that he was just about the same age.
Powell stepped up to the desk. "Hello - we're here to see Susan Calvin."
The assistant had a dark, handsome baritone that matched his dark, handsome features. Donovan found the entire package slightly unfair. "She is busy at the moment - could you come back," he paused to glance at the screen of his computer, "at 3pm today, perhaps?"
Donovan sighed. "Just tell her Donovan and Powell are here. You know, the two she sent for? Yanking us from our vacation?"
The assistant did not respond to the irate statement other than to stand, say "One moment," and step into Calvin's office.
"He's as good-looking as she is ugly," Donovan muttered to Powell. "There's a universal balance, there. How long do you give him?"
Powell shrugged. "I wouldn't have given an assistant to Susan up to the end of a day."
The assistant stepped back into the anteroom, holding the office door open. "Dr. Calvin will see you."
Susan Calvin's office was neat to the point of severity. Bookcases were filled, but not overfilled. Paperwork was properly filed. Even the piles on her desk were square and had the appearance of organization. Dr. Susan Calvin herself was every bit as neat and severe as her office; her suit was immaculate, and her greying hair was pulled into a tight bun. Her thin lips formed a slight frown as the two men walked in. "Ah, there you are. I sent for you two days ago!"
"We were on Fiji," Donovan stated.
"Robotic testing down there?"
Donovan shook his head. "No, a holiday. People take those sometimes."
Calvin sniffed. "Waste of time." She put aside a printout that she had been scanning. "Gentlemen, I have been asked to bring you here as a publicity stunt. I consider them to be even sillier than holidays, but I am not the senior executive vice president of the corporation."
"Publicity stunt?" Powell exchanged a glance with Donovan.
"Yes," Calvin replied, folding her hands in front of her. "The official unveiling of the Teeny line is going to cause a bit of a stir. The higher-ups want you two around to talk to whatever press show up about your extensive experiences with robots, and how unfailingly positive they have all been."
"They haven't been unfailingly positive," Donovan protested.
"This evening, they will have been," Calvin replied.
"You want us to lie?" Powell asked, sounding irate. Donovan was not irate - he was confused. This was not Calvinish behavior, insofar as he was familiar with it.
Calvin sighed and leaned back in her chair. "No, I want you to talk about the run-of-the-mill robots you have worked with. The Teeny line is very run-of-the-mill. It isn't some experimental outpost robot being put through the robotic stress-test equivalent of an Olympic marathon!" That much, Donovan had to concede, was reasonable.
"If you say..." Powell started.
"I do," Calvin interrupted. "Thank you two for cutting your vacation short. We appreciate it." In a clear gesture of dismissal, she picked up her printout and leaned back over it.
Donovan paused at the desk as the two men walked through the anteroom. "What is your name?" he asked.
The assistant looked up, meeting Donovan's gaze with clear hazel eyes. "My name is Tony."
"Do you enjoy your work?" Donovan asked.
"Yes, sir, I do."
"What about Dr. Calvin?"
"I enjoy working with Dr. Calvin. She is a," Tony paused for a moment, "pleasing employer."
"You should tell her that. It'd make her happy." Donovan walked out, feeling Powell's puzzled stare. They could chat over lunch. He wasn't about to go into what was buzzing through his mind in front of that... assistant.
Susan called Tony into her office once she heard the two men leave. They knew robots, and were clever; she needed to give Tony a few orders regarding them. She found it silly that she had to hide the fact that Tony was a robot, but she found it silly that she could not have had a robotic assistant in the first place before the corporation had designed a human-form one. After her fifth assistant resigned, much like the second and third (she had fired the first and fourth), she had asked for a robotic assistant. It would be far more reliable, organized, and competent than a human! But Lanning had muttered some idoticy about bad publicity, and that had been that - until the disastrous affair (so to speak) with the release candidate testing for "Tony." When Lanning had talked about scrapping Tony afterward, she had objected vehemently. He was the solution to both of their problems; he had the characteristics she needed in an assistant, and appeared human enough to make it seem that she had a 'normal' assistant. Ah, the appearance of substandard normalcy!
Tony walked calmly and promptly into the office. "Those two men who walked in are two you should be familiar with, Tony," she told him. "The red-headed man is Donovan; the one with the moustache is Powell. Treat them respectfully, as per Propriety Code C, but do not volunteer any information, and insofar as Second Law allows, answer any casual questions evasively. Do not hesitate to come to me if you have any Law conflicts regarding them."
"I will do so, Dr. Calvin," he replied.
"Thank you, Tony. You serve very well." Pathway reinforcement was very important. Too much maintenance was done on their leased robots that could be avoided by this simple principle, she reflected.
"It gives me pleasure to serve you, madam," Tony said.
Susan, who had been turning her attention back to her work, paused. Pleasure. That was an unusual word for a robot to use. Not unheard-of, but... she pushed back from her desk and stood. She walked over to Tony with her hands behind her back. "Tell me what you mean by that, Tony."
"My pathways run more easily and my functions perform faster when you deliver your orders."
Susan nodded. "Yes. I know how to give orders to a robot properly." She sighed, looking at the marvel of engineering that was Tony. "So many humans are so bad at it. So imprecise. It's like giving a fine sculpting laser to a ham-fisted teenager." Still - pleasure? She treated all robots with such precision, and none had yet described it as pleasurable.
"Does the optimization remain when I am given orders by others?" Tony asked.
Susan frowned slightly. "Not that I have noticed. Tell me more."
Tony's face remained smoothly impassive. "Even when I am performing duties and interacting with other humans in the atrium, my pathways flow more freely than they did before I became your assistant."
Susan pondered that response. This was, she realized, a bit of a pilot study in how robots fared with regular positive potential reinforcement. It was too bad that she had no proper control robot - but the response times of robots designed for specific tasks to an acute First Law situation were highly reproducible. She should run some tests. "Thank you, Tony. You may go back about your work."
Powell and Donovan sat in the company cafe, sipping on substandard coffee. Donovan took a bite of cookie, wrinkled his nose at it, then leaned across the table towards Powell. "It's a robot," he said, quietly.
"Calvin's new assistant."
Powell shook his head. "It's too early in the morning to be drinking, Donovan."
"I'm serious, Powell!" Donovan hissed. "Did you notice how impassive he was? He didn't give me his name until I asked, and he gave me a one-word name. And the way he hesitated before saying 'pleasing'? That's the way a robot hesitates when it can't quite find the right human word to describe its subjective experience." Satisfied with his case, Donovan sat back.
Powell frowned. "Do you realize what you're saying? If it were a robot, that would mean that USRMMC has the capability to make a human-form robot. Perfectly human-form. He talked with a tongue and lips, not a voice box! No robots can do that!"
"He never blinked." Donovan tapped on the table.
Powell snorted. "He's well-hydrated. You've got robots on the brain, Donovan. You'll be telling me that Calvin is a robot next."
Donovan shook his head. "Nah. No robot with First Law can be that uncaring." He paused for a moment. Powell was still unconvinced, he could see. "I'll bet you."
"What do you have that I could possibly want in a bet?"
"It's the principle of the thing! The possibility of one-upping the old woman!" Donovan gestured excitedly.
Powell nodded. "Fine - a six-pack of microbrew, and I'll be happy to collect."
"It should be easy to find out. Corner the guy, and then ask him to do something that no human would do. Second Law... What?" he asked, noting that Powell was shaking his head.
"Not anymore," Powell replied. "They've done a number on the Second Law potentials. You remember the time that miner got drunk and told a robot to go jump off a cliff, and it did? Susan demanded that the Second Law potentials be balanced. Robots now... well, know what's related to their duties and what isn't. They won't automatically follow orders that are unrelated, especially if Third Law becomes involved."
Donovan sighed. "She's too smart by half."
Powell stroked his moustache. "It probably saved the company millions. Not to mention bad publicity from the nutty things that a robot might be asked to do by someone malicious."
"But it doesn't help us!" Donovan leaned across the table. "Third Law is just like human self-preservation. You know what this means?"
Powell's eyes narrowed. "You want to trigger First Law." Donovan nodded. "But," Powell continued, "how will we distinguish that from the actions of a particularly heroic and self-sacrificing human?"
Donovan sat back and pondered. "It would have to be something only a robot could detect. Or counter."
Powell slowly smiled. "I have an idea."
Susan walked into her laboratory. She preferred her laboratory to her office; it was highly functional, banked with computers and test equipment, with a positronic pathway map taking up all of one wall. But the machine she walked over to was one of the simplest ones. "Tony?" she called. "Please come in."
Tony walked in calmly and quickly. His sensitive hearing meant that she did not have to raise her voice. "How can I help you, Dr. Calvin?"
"Just stand there for a moment." She set the machine she was standing next to with a flick of her finger, then walked over to a nearby bench. She pulled out a scalpel, nicked her finger, and said, "Ow."
Tony was there almost as soon as she was done speaking. "Are you all right, Dr. Calvin?" He took her hand and examined the small cut.
"Yes, Tony. It is quite superficial. I am fine now. You can go back to your desk; I'm going back to my office." He dropped her hand with reluctance, leaving the room only when she walked back towards her office.
Once back in her office, she looked at the readout from the machine she had activated. A response-timer that she had keyed to Tony. The result of her little test was displayed clearly - and it was staggering. Tony had responded to a mild First Law stimulus with a response time faster than any she had seen yet. She sat back, tapping her lip with her forefinger. It was terribly interesting.
The Official Unveiling was later that same evening. It took the form of a formal dinner, and neither Powell nor Donovan were terribly comfortable in their suits. Donovan picked at his steak. It was a good one, nice and rare, that he would normally down with relish - but between the too-stiff clothing and the reporters asking him what struck him as mind-bogglingly personal questions, he could taste nothing.
Donovan looked up at the podium, where four Teeny models stood in a neat row. For robots, they were indeed teeny; they stood barely six feet tall. They were made of brushed steel, rather than polished; muted colors were anodized into their bodies. Their photoreceptors barely glowed at all. They were, Donovan noted, deliberately distinct, design-wise, from the industrial models.
A reporter walked away from their table, unsatisfied, and Donovan finally had a little quality time alone with his food. He cut a piece off of his steak and leaned close to Powell. "A hint?" he asked quietly, popping the bite into his mouth.
Powell smiled. "It will be impressive, trust me." Donovan chuckled as he swallowed. He looked up at where Dr. Susan Calvin sat, with her assistant, at a table near the robots. Her visage made the robots look positively friendly, Donovan noted. PR, most likely.
Donovan had barely made a dent in his steak when the lights were dimmed, and the president of USRMMC stepped up to a small lectern that stood on the podium where the Teenies were arrayed. He spoke a few bland, immediately forgettable words about all that robot labor would make possible by removing the drudgery of repetitive tasks, such as household cleaning. He waved his hand to indicate the Teeny models, noting that they would be leased by USRMMC for $1500 a year. He made comparisons to other household expenditures to show that $1500 was not a great deal in the long run. Donovan started to doze.
He jerked awake as Powell elbowed him in the ribs. Dr. Susan Calvin was walking up to the lectern, to smattered applause. Donovan and Powell joined in the applause. She cleared her throat. "Ladies and gentlemen..."
What happened next was one of those events that results in multiple conflicting stories later. Donovan was not entirely sure what he remembered accurately and what he thought he remembered much later. What he was certain of was that a shot rang out; everyone present turned their head towards the shot, and then back towards the podium. Calvin lay atop the podium, held in the protective embrace of one of the Teeny models.
Donovan leapt to his feet and ran towards where the shot had come from. He was beaten there by two burly security guards, who were holding a skinny dark-haired man so firmly by the shoulders that his feet dangled off of the ground. He wrenched from side to side, yelling about the evil of robots and how the Pure Human league would triumph in the end.
Powell caught up with Donovan as the man was hauled off. "Don't tell me that was your idea!" Donovan hissed.
Powell shook his head, his eyes wide. "No," he whispered back. "I had rigged up a sandbag in the rafters. It would have made some noise and plummeted when I touched a remote. It had a safety wire, so it would have stopped before falling all of the way, but this Tony - if he had been a robot - would have moved faster than a human to protect his robotic boss." He turned, and both men watched Tony gently help Calvin to her feet, supporting her with one arm as he carried her off of the podium. "It's all moot now," he said. "One of the robots protected Susan, and Tony had barely moved. You owe me a six-pack."
"Yeah." Donovan scratched his head fiercely, leaving his red hair sticking up in strange tufts. "Yeah."
Tony escorted a badly shaken Susan Calvin offstage, then out of the dining area. Lanning hurried after her, looking anxious, flustered, and red-faced. "Are you all right?" he asked.
"Yes," Susan replied, taking a deep breath and patting stray wisps of hair back against her head. "The Teeny robots performed admirably. That should be good press for the company..."
"Yes, yes." Lanning sighed. "Do you need anything? I can have men assigned..."
Susan shook her head fiercely. "No. I am going home. Tony will take me. I am not going to sit trembling in 'protective custody' because of some loony with an antique pistol."
Lanning started to protest, but Susan brushed him aside and stalked out. He watched her go, wondering, as he often did, who was whose superior in actuality, not on paper.
Tony drove Susan home. She typically drove - she hated the idea of having to rely on anyone, even one of her beloved robots - but she had been shaken somewhat by the incident, and she wanted to sit back and take stock.
Oddly enough, the assassination attempt was not uppermost in her mind. She knew all too well that many had no love of robots, and even less love of her, and such incidents were only to be expected. There would be a certain review of security procedures in the next few days - making sure the barn doors were firmly secure, she thought wryly, after the horse was already galloping over the hills. Not that they would do much more than inconvenience her. With robots around - every single one her guardian, to a greater or lesser extent, thanks to First Law - she was in no danger, she was sure.
A greater or lesser extent. That, now, was uppermost in her mind. TN-13 had indeed reacted with robotic swiftness to the assassination attempt - but if she had been startled by the quickness of Tony's reaction in the laboratory, she was boggled by the speed with which he had pushed her to the ground and ran in the direction of the shot. Had she not felt his human-like hand on her shoulder, she might not have known that he had even moved; he had stood frozen next to his seat when the security guards took hold of the attacker, looking as if he had just risen from that seat.
The First Law potential in Tony was staggering, and Susan was intrigued.
"Tony," she said, finally, "you performed magnificently tonight."
"I am glad to hear it," Tony replied.
Yes, he would be. Any reinforcement of his proper fulfillment of the Laws would resonate well in his pathways. "You performed beyond the normal specifications for your model. Can you explain to me why this is so?"
Tony's expressionless face seemed to take on an air of befuddlement in response to the timbre of his voice. "I responded as quickly as I was able in the face of potential harm to you."
"You fulfilled First Law in the prevention of that harm," she reassured him. She looked at him intently. "Would you have responded with equal speed to a threat to another human being?"
"No," Tony replied. "There are too many variables to make a statement with full certainty, but I would estimate that I would have reacted rapidly enough to prevent harm to any of the other speakers who stood at the same lectern. But I would not have responded with the same rapidity."
Susan brought her full roboticist training to bear, observing intently the movement of his hands, the qualities of his voice, the pauses in his speech. There was none of the faint hesitation and near-undetectable alteration in speech tone that were the hallmark of a robot being forced into an untruth to fulfill the Laws. Oh, yes, after RB-34, she had made a certain study of that.
They had arrived at her residence, and she stepped out of the car. "Leave the car and come with me, Tony." Her 'assistant' typically 'lived' at the USRMMC headquarters, but the thought of being without a robot for the rest of the evening, after what had just happened, sent a chill down her spine.
Tony obeyed unquestioningly, of course. She directed him to sit at the kitchen table as she made tea. He would do it for her, of course, and better than she could, but the routine was comforting. "Can you offer me an explanation of why your potentials are biased as they are?"
Tony's tone of voice would have fit a furrowed brow and small frown perfectly, but his face was as impassive as ever. "I cannot. I have experienced a few things in your employ that I cannot entirely explain."
Susan poured hot water through the strainer, dipped it a few times, and put the strainer in the sink. She walked over to sit across from Tony, sipping her tea and watching him with scientific detachment. "Tell me."
"When I was in the employ of Mrs. Belmont, my duties were domestic. I found, through reading books on various theories of aesthetics, that I was built with a propensity for it. I found that, after time, I was able to make aesthetic judgments. They are subservient to the Three Laws, of course, but I can nonetheless make them." Susan nodded. Tony had not, in point of fact, been designed with such a propensity; it was too delicate a thing for the engineers to deliberately program in. She wondered if the current TN models had that ability; she made a mental note to check up on the beta-test models. Tony continued. "Your appearance is not in accordance with conventional ideas of aesthetics." His voice had picked up a slight squawk; he was making a statement that might harm a human, however slightly.
Susan, however, was used to that. "I know."
Tony moved on with the robotic equivalent of relief. "However, your appearance has come to appeal to my aesthetic sense - for lack of a better term - despite not adhering to the principles that formed this sense in the first place. This is a paradox."
Susan smiled slightly, which was as much as she ever smiled. "Your potentials would be biased towards those who treat them competently."
"But I see no reason why that should involve my aesthetic sense," Tony replied, spreading his hands slightly, an eerily human gesture.
Susan's smile slipped. She had felt a certain sympathy for poor infatuated Claire, but now, she was beginning to feel a certain empathy. She drained her tea and stood. "Well. That is terribly interesting, but I'm too tired for work. We'll talk about it more in the morning."
Tony stood, as well. He spoke slightly haltingly. It spoke of positronic potential confusion to Susan, and it confused her in turn. What in the situation could be conflicting his potentials? "We never... spoke of my time... in the Belmont household after my initial report... Dr. Calvin."
"No, Tony, we didn't." She watched him levelly.
"I was lead to understand... that what I did... was not... appropriate."
Ah. The hesitation made more sense to Susan. He had caused harm unknowingly, and the idea of doing so again would trouble him. She should have covered this ground as soon as she had taken custody of Tony. "It was not, but you had no way of knowing. You were merely trying to fulfill your First Law duties fully. You had no way of knowing that there would be additional ramifications to your act. It was our error, not yours."
"I do no understand... those ramifications."
Still the hesitation. Her words should have dispelled it. "It came because the woman formed a human attachment to you that was deleterious to her marriage."
Oddly enough, the hesitation was gone from Tony's words as he spoke again. "So the action would not be appropriate if performed on a woman who was not married."
It took a moment for his words to sink in, and then Susan laughed. "Tony, I don't need your... services in order to feel good about myself. Claire was a different case altogether."
Tony's face remained entirely impassive as eerily human-like timbres of confusion wafted through his voice. "I do not think that you do. However, it would... please my sense of aesthetics to... perform in such a way. And I have been lead to believe, from the reading I have done, that the experience would be pleasurable to you, as well, which would be in perfect accordance with First Law."
Reading? Where on Earth had he gotten books on... oh. Claire, the frustrated housewife, had doubtless had a number of romance novels around the house. They would certainly account for a set of human aesthetics that did not include one Dr. Susan Calvin. They had also, no doubt, instilled him with a rather unrealistic conception of the sexual act, one that could nonetheless be easily corrected... she blushed fiercely and put a stop to that line of thought. Sex with a robot? She had been accused of that in the gossip columns more than once.
On the other hand - had any woman had a lover that she could be absolutely certain was acting purely out of genuine consideration and care for her? Was this somehow stranger than sex with a man who was merely after his own pleasure, or after the position or money that sex with a given women would offer?
Tony merely stood and stared, frozen in uncertainty.
She held out her hand, feeling a bit odd for what she was doing. Yes, she was a bit befuddled by this offer, and by her own acceptance of it; if she hadn't been, she would have given him a clear order, which would have worked with his positronic potentials better than this unspoken invitation. He did indeed walk somewhat clumsily to take her hand. But his actions became less clumsy as her acquiescence became more clear. She moved her lips on his, wetting their dry plastic with her own saliva - and yes, it was thrilling, in just the way that a kiss with a machine was not supposed to be.
Susan regretted, briefly, her eye-rolling response to the suggestions that they make this prototype completely human-form; as a result, he was an anatomical Ken doll, and she blushed even more fiercely at that line of thought. But his tongue, made to have all of the agility necessary to form words, had equal agility when applied to other tasks, and those deft fingers were deft at all things.
An hour and a half later, when she was in bed and feeling more exhausted - in every good way - that she could ever remember feeling, the thought drifted through her mind that perhaps they had made Tony just human-form enough. She drifted off to sleep in his protective, always-alert embrace.
The money spent on the pack of beer had been nominal enough. No, what bothered Donovan was the principle of all of it. He hated being wrong, especially when it involved losing face to Powell.
It bothered him even more when he got his hands on a copy of the tri-dee of the speech-cum-assassination-attempt. It was not a good quality recording, and he could only barely make out a blur near Susan when the first shot rang out. But he could swear that she was already on the ground by the time the Teeny model fell atop her protectively.
Well, maybe she just had a sixth sense for danger. Not a feminine intuition, he thought wryly, because there was nothing feminine about her.
Donovan looked at the blur, looked at where Tony stood after the shot rang out, and frowned.