The Laser Fiction - An Unyielding Approach (Part One)









In Memory
Sean Pettibone



An Unyielding Approach

It took quite a while for us to figure out precisely where we were headed. The vessel seemed a little bit adrift, since no one was piloting it initially. It wasn't clear who would be navigating the journey, since we had rushed onward without taking the time to figure out who would be doing what. She walked astride the now familar boat and circled it around the edges, unsure of what to do next. He drew a conflicted breath yet held steady in position. He inhaled the fresh ocean air tentatively, letting its implacable currents flow inside him, surveying the quiet waves drifting imperceptably as they slipped beneath the surface.

He hadn't been outdoors in awhile. This was a strange situation since he'd been locked away in that room for quite some time. Carefully, she walked toward my direction and surveyed the boat, looking for flaws and problems within its interior. She hadn't found anything of concern and decided that she'd take a little bit more time to get its layout memorized. Her instincts seemed to tell her that there was time to delay, at least for the time being. She walked a few steps closer to my direction and stopped just short of my position. I looked around and saw the side of the boat which seemed solid and sturdy,though it seemed to be stuck in place, moored to its surface by unseen forces.

It wasn't moving despite the waves lapping at its side. Jutting outward, its sails seemed to have maintained a rigidity whose origin wasn't immediately obvious. The steering wheel located within its center, converging centrally within the boat didn't budge. Its resolute fastidiousness made all the sense in the way it defied expectations. There was an unexpected quiet between the vessel and its surroundings and our silent approachment to it and each other made for an uneasy truce.

I looked around the boat, walking past her position carefully. Not wanting to get in her way, I tried to keep out of her way but ended up accidentally brushing past her side despite my best efforts. I searched for some kind of answers or a hidden clue, but nothing was immediately evident. Despite my close examination, there wasn't much to convey. The boat maintained its enigmatic force. I looked closely for something that might have kept it in place, but there was no ballast or anchor to keep its mooring secure. It wasn't immediately obvious what exactly they were up to but one thing was certain. They'd managed to keep their unspoken promise, its secrets  resolutely held while defiantly intact.

I walked cautiously, dodging the vessel's thick masts and other impediments, until I reached the forward portion of the vessel, and looked over the side of its railing, searching for any sign as to which direction we were headed. I scanned the waves in the ocean underneath but there was no way of interpreting the signals. The darkness seemed omnipresent, saturating the surroundings effortlessly. There were no lights to use as a guidepoint, effectively cloaking the path ahead. It seemd that we'd have to manuever based solely on instinct. I looked back at both of them and they seemed to shrink in stature, innumerable details lost beneath the ocean.

Gazing towards the other side of the boat, I patientely attempted to see if they left any untoward clues trailing behind us in our wake. There didn't seem to be anything in the immediate vicinity, nothing was visible there either. I decided to wait for a short time to see if anything changed. I watched them carefully as they moved about the boat, thier cloistered tasks hidden just out of reach. Apparently searching for answers brought them little luck. They appeared directionless and lost as they walked back and forth, in seemingly aimless patterns. I watched the navigator and noticed that his sense of purpose seemed to have deserted him, his path blocked by a seemingly invisible barrier.

His suit remained sharp and crisp, but some of its extensions had become noticeably scuffy by this point and his slouching demeanor belied a sense of disconnection that permeated his demeanor. I noticed that he didn't seem to have the same motivation as he'd previously displayed. He brushed his hands across the steering wheel but didn't seem to know precisely what to do or where he was headed. I turned my eyes back towards her and she hadn't really made much progress. either. It seemed that she was stuck in place as well. I noticed that she hadn't examined the surroundings or bothered to take the atmopshere in fully, and the sense of defeat had overwhelmed her.

This malaise mirrored the energy it had drained, emptying his sense of purpose and hers as well. She walked tentatively towards the center of the ship, slowly moving down into its recessed galley and onto its venerable center. Her disposition gradually improved as she walked towards the steering wheel. Aiming her energy squarely at its center, she grasped its sides and gave it a few quick whirls around, measuring its strength and push-back. At first, these motions seemed to have little effect, but slowly but surely the vessel began to respond to her increasingly strident motions. I was impressed that she'd somehow figured it out and had taken control back from the depths. No longer stymied by the boat's intricacies and intractable distance, she'd managed to push it out of its stagnant position and began moving forward stridently.

As the ship began to make noticebale progress in some forward direction, the mysterious man in the suit took notice. The sense of motion roused something inside of him and he stood back, straightening his tie along with his back while standing fully at attention. Watching her carefully, he stood back for awhile and observed her as she carefully maneuvered the ship through the imposing darkness. He didn't want to interfere and somehow knew his time would come. After a few minutes, he couldn't help himself and began to display impatience and aggravation.

He began pacing nervously, moving back and forth quickly, jostling his feet in a kind of prepatory dance that presaged his deferred turn as head captain in control. She looked back at him briefly and cautiously nodded in his direction. She had made it this far on her own and there was no way she going to concede her command, at least not at such an early stage in the journey. She reiterated her position and waved at him politely but firmly, conditioning him not to get in her way. Reluctantly, he seemed to take a hint after this repetition. He moved back a step and let her spin and turn the wheel. She took some time and released on the sails. It swooned then unfurled gracefully until it had taken its full form.

Positioned on the east side of the ship, it's extension allowed for a wide turn toward the right. This continued for an extended period until we had gone almost three-quarters in a complete circle. It seemed that we were finally hitting our stride, the firm direction at long last unfolding before us. I felt the boat began to sway a little, ascending and descending over the waves quickly. This occured without warning and before I realized what was happening, it felt like we were gliding over the waves without anything standing in front of us that would slow us down.

She wasn't fazed by the increased velocity and rapid intensification of our journey. Instead, her inner strength appeared to have been unleashed and she responded to the challenge forcefully without hesitation. The man appeared to be impressed by her unwavering skill and knowledge, he began containing and alternately holding his insecurity inside, his nervous pacing and uncertainty slowly diminished until stopping completely. She didn't seem to notice his undulations, instead remaining focused on the mission at hand.

Using nothing except her intuition, she navigated through the choppy oceans without much effort. We moved ahead quickly, cutting through the waves effortlessly while we took a curved, precise path forward. Deciding to stay out of her way, I held back and grabbed one side of the railings for balance, careful not to lean on it too heavily for fear of falling over. There wasn't much to go on, expectations on my part were vague and diffuse. I had no idea what to expect. She continued, unimpeded by the rougher terrain. She glided through the curve.
This challenge only seemed to lengthen and steepen the longer she worked the controls.

I waited for any type of signal and tried to locate any visual indicators but could only see a seemingly endless black night ahead of us. Deciding to wait patiently was difficult given the circumstances but the situation gave me little choice. We embarked further into the unknown, the countervaling waves ceding nothing along the way. It seemed that we'd have to fight for every inch but fortunately she was up to the task. Her eyes glanced back toward me briefly, and for a transitory moment, there was an unspoken connection. I just needed to trust her, everything would work out eventually. I walked a couple steps toward her with with a surge in confidence, balanced out by the dangerous situation.

Acting uncharacteristically, the navigator held up his hands to dissuade me from venturing further so as not to get in her way or intrude on her space. He took a few measured paces in my direction until he stood between us, making it abundantly clear, in no uncertain terms, that I was to stand back in place, at least for the time being. I carefully adjusted my directional angle, until I was waiting just off to the side, not wanting to even have the appearance of interfering. Instead, I decided to observe carefully while allowing her the space she needed, until the time came when it would be appropriate to take action on my own.

The seas continued to swallow and exhaust in a steady rhythm for an extended period, our vessel swaying alongside the waves, riding slightly above their choppy crests when necessary. She watched the surface continuously awaiting any signs of reduction or strengthening. Slowly, our gradual turn began to recede until the wind had changed direction completely. She pulled the wheel aside, and maneuvered the ship until it paused. This friction created a vacuum, that nearly automatically, made the sail recoil, lifting back into neutral position. There was unexpected momentum as we resumed moving, this time directly in a straight line.

He seemed to have regained a large measure of confidence, and at long last, put down the papers he was still clutching and placed them on the floor. They formed a neat pile at his side. He no longer needed their aid, about which he already seemed to know but the physical act put it into practice. In due course, he would retrieve them if the situation changed, but he could have just as easily discarded them without much thought. He turned back towards me and looked me over. It was strange, I thought he knew who I was by this point. I didn't feel like a threat to his standing.

Certainly, I was in no position to steer the boat or give anyone commands. I lacked the experience and was basically along for the ride. I looked at his expression and it gave way from wariness to inquisitiveness. He didn't know precisely what I was up to, and was trying to understand my motivations. He watched me carefully, apparently concerned that there was more than I was letting on. His eyes went over my position, thoroughly and slowly. I felt a little nervous to be under his watch, sitting within his sights without recourse.

I stood in place and tried to keep a bland expression on my face, appearing completely non-threating. I focused my attention on her position and she decided not to look directly back into his eyes. She was in control for the moment, and there was no need to gloat. After several minutes of scanning and waiting for me to make a move, he finally arrived at a conclusion. At long last, he seemed somewhat relieved that I hadn't gone over his head and taken over. Instead, his defensive posture evaporated and he seemed to welcome my appearance.

He gave me a quick nod and waved at me, making an unexpected affirmation. At first, I couldn't fully understand the sudden change in his attitude. He'd been surprisingly hostile but I realized that it wasn't about him. Instead, something about me had changed. At first, I couldn't understand what I could have done to cause such a disturbance. She placed the ship's controls on autopilot and released her grip for a moment to see what the commotion was all about. She quickly walked beside him and looked me over. I wasn't sure what she was up to at first. There was a long pause until she finally spoke up. She said I looked cute, nearly ebullient, in my red polka-dot dress. She turned to him and he nodded in agreement.

Almost immediately, I realized what had changed. In order to escape from their monstrous gaze, I'd quickly changed into my disguise to get away. I wasn't able to evade their assualt completely, but they held their distance and I avoided a direct attack. I figured out why he watched me so closely, taking unusual attention with me. He was cautiously cataloging my every step as I moved around the boat. It wasn't critical, more curiousity about my different appearance. He must have thought it was for the better. I felt a bit strange and oddly disoriented for a minute. Then an unspoken, distinctly feminine force welled up, and I felt its strength and power building quickly. I took some time to notice its effects but they became more pronounced as I walked astride the boat with increased confidence.

I felt my dress and its shimmering fabric flowing naturally against my body. Its billowing skirt gently blowing in the wind, hanging just just above my knees. The perfectly-sized pumps were surprisingly comfortable, and helped to balance my steps. A black wig and matching tights added consistency while a dash of red lipstick was the finishing touch that completed my outfit. Strangely, I didn't feel out of place walking on the vessel. Despite being exposed under the moonlight, I didn't feel vulnerable or frightened. There was no place to hide anywhere on the vessel's open surface. I wasn't bothered by this and instead felt empowered. However, I was still uncertain that his reaction might be negative. I decided that I wouldn't let any negative reaction get to me, no matter what.

I knew that she accepted me, and that was the most important thing. I could rely on her support. She would have said something to me by that point. It wasn't that big of a deal intitially, but I didn't panic once my metamorphasis was pointed out in divergent terms. I'd grown surprisingly comfortable in my altered form. I felt more like her true and loyal friend wearing that style, I had become a fellow adventurer. Even though it might have looked odd, it felt right and made sense to me. This approach might have seemed strange to an outsider, but it made perfect sense for me to mirror her style. I admired her greatly, after all. I thought of it as a kind of tribute, along with subtle experimentation. It was a natural occurence that I hadn't needed to explain to anyone else.

Until that point, I hadn't understood why he'd been acting so strangely towards me. I didn't mind, but there was a strange expectation that I didn't follow in the usual way. It was completely unusual to find her assistant's appearance and look had changed so radically, without warning. My percpetions hadn't changed, and for the most part I didn't feel noticeably different in that outfit. I felt a tad guilty for not fully explaining the metamorphosis, but it was a relief that he really didn't mind. He was just wondering and reassured me that it didn't bother him. After confirming who I was, it didn't seem to need further explanation, there wasn't much in the way of additional reasoning required on my part. It didn't seem to matter at all. After a few minutes and he'd quickly grown accustumed to my altered appearance. I walked slowly towards him, and awaited his instruction. He asked me if I still had the strange drawing which caught me off-guard for a moment. I realized it was safely hidden, tucked away beneath my flowing dress. I was somewhat surprised that he knew I still posessed it. I wasn't under the impression that he wanted something from me but was happy to oblige once I realized what he was seeking.

The artistic painting was hidden from sight and nearly fogotten, but not completely. My Instincts came to the fore. They told me there was a missing illustration that might hold a key. At the moment, it was forlorn and abandonded, placed in my possession stealthily. I looked inside, uncovering my sachel for a few minutes until I discovered a strangely familiar rolled up piece of paper. On initial inspection, it looked overtly opaque, purposely abstract and intentionally difficult to decipher. Hidden within its defiantly elaborate stuctures might have been hidden symbols and messages. I examined the unaltered drawing that she designed, its clues initially buried within plain sight. These messages and symbols became more apparent the longer I gazed into its vision, revealing an unexpected depth and layers.

I was surprised that it's elaborate pastels still glowed brightly, radiating a strange, undefined energy that punctured the night. It seemed translucent, almost alive, despite inticacies that were submerged beneath the stars. I pulled it out fully, until it was completely unfolded. It was much grander and more elaborate than I remembered. He joined me at my side and began examining it as well. Working together, we looked at it carefully, and found clandestine florishes, hidden compartments and mysterious forms. They began appearing before I realized they had visualized, pushed forward from behind, until they were basking in their intricacies, shining brightly in even low-level illumination.

My eyes drew pointers and indicators leading to the symbols lurking just beneath its surface. We looked and traced our hands across its surface. We began to locate the innumerable ravishing details which seemes to appear from nowhere. This was surprising and disorienting for my admittedly constrained and inexperienced field of vision. I was impressed by both its complexity and simplicity. There was strange mix of forms that seemed impenetrable at first but slowly coalesced into something that quickly became increasingly obvious. Each distinct element had a determined meaning. I knew that it was going to take a much longer time to decipher what its message might be than I'd anticipated. I made an intial, amateur attempt at decoding it, but my abilities were no match for his, he was a true expert in the field.

We knew that she wasn't going to give us a single peep in response, that was part of the fun from her standpoint. After seeing it again, I was reluctant to part with it. However, a promise was made. I dwelled on it for too long, and it still took me awhile to roll it up and hand it to him. I didn't want to let it go but his eyes were insistent, and it felt like I had no recourse. I gave it to him and he held it carefully, not wanting to make even the smallest imprint on its page. He examined it closely and remarked that it was an excellent example of her work. At least it was in good hands.

I examined it closely with added intensity, he seemed to find things within the frame in unexpected places that I'd overlooked. His more experienced eyes began uncovering its secrets with a fraction of the effort it would have taken me. He turned his attention back towards me and extended his hand and shook it strongly. This exchange made him happy to no end and he continued until he patted me on the shoulder, feeling very pleased. I was reassured that we'd complete the mission eventually, whatever the obstacles in our path. Most importantly, that I would be safe with him at my side. I didn't feel that I needed his extra protection but it was nice to know he was watching my back, regardless of the circumstances.

Looking around cautiously to see if any of the monstrous creatures remained lurking out of sight, but there was no sign of them or any other threat. I waved to her to cut the power to the boat just to be sure. She followed suit and the vessel came to an emphatic standstill. It stood quietly for a few minutes. It took a few minutes for things to settle down and waited tentatively as the current subsided. The waves eventually seemed to calm, almost supernaturally accepting in their docile acquiescence to her desire for silence.
I scanned our disoriemting surroundings cautiously and he followed suit, searching for signals and signs while also warily seeking out any unseen threats that might emerge from the nocturnal atmosphere. She remained focused on the boat itself and didn't look far outside her immediate surroundings. We gazed beyond, outside towards the ebbing waves, into the interminable night. The ocean's silent repose beneath the darkened sky and unwavering stillness belied any movement working against our safe passage. After carefully finishing a quick survey for unseen dangers, the only rational conclusion was that there weren't any impending threats lurking underneath the serene waves.

I waited expectantly for an untoward occurence, but nothing seemed to come of the forebearance. I looked at the man and his sharply-tailored suit, awaiting some kind of guidance. He didn't give that much away, instead leaving me to my own devices, allowing me to explore in the short term. I'd have to wait patiently until we reached our next destination. I wondered how she managed to move ahead so confidentally without any apparent plans in mind. She knew what she was doing, though it wasn't immediately obvious. The boat moved ahead at a consistent rate and we traversed the waves beneath us effortlessly for quite some time.

I managed to allow myself a respite. There was a fleeting interruption of relaxation as I inhaled the fresh ocean air and closed my eyes. It was warmer than I'd expected but the atmosphere was thick. It left a salty aftertaste behind, which was difficult to shake. I decided not to take too much inside after a few minutes, which made things lighten, a little more bearable. She took a speedy path ahead and was unyielding in her certaintly about the mission laid out ahead. Concentrating squarely on the mission, she wasn't distracted by my strange choices in clothing or stories surrounding phantom monsters.

After several minutes, her hands began to relax imperceptibly, though she remained firmly in control of its innumerable operations. There was enough pause and I used the opportunity to get a little closer. This gave me the chance to ascertain where she was going. It took me a few minutes' observation to comprehend what was going on. It looked like she was following an internal map, something that couldn't be visualized. I quickly became apparent that she knew the way without being told. I watched the navigator as well, glancing in his direction quickly, while he had confidence in her abilities, it seemed that he was mostly in the dark about our journey's true purpose. She maintained her composure, not giving into any pressure that the two of us might have placed on her.

Unpeturbed, she surveyed the potentially treacherous environment carefully for any signs of trouble. She found none in her sights and we continued moving forward until we got closer to what appeared to be a hard and fast marker. It qaa invisible yet the change was immediately evident. The waves grew choppier and less predictable. She began to encounter difficult terrain, with unconventional formatioms of rocks and sharp boulders appearing suddenly, peaking through the surface currents. It wasn't excessive;u difficult for her to avoid these obstacles, though they still created the culmulative effect of slowing us substantially, effectively blocking our previously clear path forward. I felt the boat becoming less stable, and it began rocking back and forth frenetically, responding to the added debris and interpersed formations with sharp twists and sudden jolts, without giving in to the unexpected obstacles laid in its path completely.

Partially submerged, these barriers began to appear with more frequency. She manuevered the vessel through and around them flawlessly. Despite the increased layers of rock and other unwelcome intruders, she was largely unswayed. I looked around carefully, attempting to understand or anticipate any sort of pattern to their appearance. There didn't seem to be one, and she'd seemingly navigated through the blockages using mostly her instinct, forging ahead while never forgetting the larger path and destination.

As the boat performed gradual twists and unpredictable turns through the increasingly treacherous terrain, she carefully steered through its uneven currents. There wasn't the smallest contact, she'd managed to sail through without inflicting even a minor dent or scrape into the boat's surface. This was a remarkable feat, considering the sheer number of obstacles in our path, but also not surprising given my experience at her side. After getting through that outer section, we finally reached a calmer portion of the sea, where the rocks began to melt away. A path cleared out, seeming to break apart and disintegrate afield. The path ahead cleared and we resumed moving ahead at an increased speed. We weren't reckless, and the velocity we achieved belied a cautious, yet steadfast approach gliding just above the surface.

Lurking beneath, the open waters maintained an unexpected depth, containing surprises and mystery. We couldn't stand in place long enough to become entirely certain that any lingering threats had totally dissipated. After several minutes, we drew towards an unexpectedly robust landscape, emerging silently beneath the atmosphere. Intially, only a subtle outline of a shadowy expanse was apparent beneath the cloaked, mysterious night skies. I couldn't make much out in the darkness and it wasn't entirely clear if that was what she'd been working toward. We drew in a little closer and she began to throttle the vessel down until it had nearly arrived at a complete stop. She began to look into the unknown, placating the darkness while piercing into the hidden world deep within the ocean.

She stepped out of the center of the boat momentarily, and stood on the front-right side to gain a better vantage point. Carefully scanning the seas didn't provide the evidence she needed to be completely sure she had arrived at the correct juncture. A pronounced lack of visibility made it absolutely imperative for her to be completely sure she hadn't made a mistake. We could have ended up stranded or worse if her calculation were off. She decided that some assistance was called for. She reluctantly turned to the navigator and carefully asked him if he knew where we'd landed. He gave no signs of any recognition. He paused for a moment, scanned the nearly invisible formations and stuctures ahead and told her that he did not know the area.

She motioned for my input in a desperate attempt to find an answer, but found no affirmation on my part either. Insisting for a second time, she asked him to look again and reconsider his response. He looked things over with even more caution and clariry. He took a deep breath, attempted an even deeper scan which seemed to penetrate further. He squinted his eyes and stared intently. The result was no different. He closed his eyes briefly before reiterating he lacked enough information. The vague formation was too far away and indistinct for him to confirm one way or the other. She would have to move closer and rely on her intuition.

This made her understandably reluctant to move the vessel forward heedlessly into the breach. She didn't want to get drawn into its vortex only to find herself trapped inside its gravitational pull, where it could become nearly impossible for us to escape. She had to consider what the consquences might be and do so quickly before we lost our narrowing opportunity. She openly worried that it might end up placing us on the wrong island. We'd find ourselved forging ahead bravely walking ahesd, only to find ourselves helplessly stranded at a dead end. He asked her if there was anything she could be overlooking or forgetting, and she nodded her head.

I wondered why her confidence had diminished so quickly until we'd been forced to pause and reconsider not only the direction, but the purpose of our mission. I was slightly confused and wondered exactly what had changed. I looked toward the mysterious formation in the distance unable to ascertain its meaning. I held my position and began to pace about nervously, uncertain what the next approach would bring. She waited a few minutes for my anxiety to subside and wondered anew if I had any other suggestions. I thought about it for a moment then asked her, somewhat naively why she hadn't used the enigmatic machine for its intended navigational purpose. I thought that, perhaps, its focused beam of light and scanning abilites might reveal something we couldn't see with unenhanced eyes. It reminded her that it was powerful. While it wasn't a map in the traditional sense, it could help us chart a course ahead. Perhaps, she could use it temporarily help us along.

At this suggestion, she nearly jumped half-a-step back, surprised by this unexpected insight. It seemed incongrous that she'd managed to overlook that the mysteriously powerful machine. It remained cloistered underneath her clothing, hidden from view yet firmly in her possession. She probably wasn't focused on it. There was probably too much going on between piloting the boat, plotting the course and, navigating through the barriers with no apparent guidance. Scanning and discovering new places with her machine wasn't the most obvious solution. It wasn't the perfect way, but it seemed that it could work, especially with innumerable threats nipping at our sides, lurking along the edges.

While these opponents weren't always visible, none of them had been dispatched completely. Despite all we'd encountered, we knew they were still out there. It seemed that they were never far behind, despite the distance we'd travelled. A elaborate scanning operation would represent a complex task on its own and probably too much to perform while simultaneously maneuvering the boat. Moving off the control deck for a moment, she held the machine in her hands and contemplated her next move. It took awhile for her to go through the variables, but she finally reached a conclusive decision and fixated on a workable approach. Quickly waving him into the fray, she motioned for the navigator to take over the controls, at least provisionally.

He took her place, and started carefully maintaining the boat's unwavering stasis. Working quickly, she began to focus on a different task. She pulled up the machine and it slowly warmed up. It begn to beep in whirl in familar fashion until it emitted a strong signal. There was no mistaking its distinctive voice. It began to shake and beep as it woke up, coming back to life vigorously after what was likely an unexpectedly long period of dormancy.

There was another unwelcome interruption before the machine warmed up. It paused for a brief moment. She needed to collect her thoughts and change her focus. Her concentration begn coalesece behind her theory and she needed to double-check any residual contradictions before the machine began fully function once more, and began accumulating copious amounts data. It took some time for it to catch onto out current situation. Its process began slowly as she brought it up to speed. She carefully waved it towards the general direction of the hidden world in front of us, asking it to see beyond the surface layers.

Any response from the machine was limited inititally, bringing about only the slightest movement from its surface dials. It looked like we needed to move in closer for better instrumentation, the distance was probably a touch out of range. He offered to manuever the boat until it reached a closer position, but she decided against taking the risk at first. We needed to display patience and caution, allowing the machine to do its work, despite its pedantic rate of stuctural inquistion, it was the most accurate measure we had.

She showed a well-spring of patience an systematically continued gathering the information and accumulating data, keeping a safe remove from the unseen darknss, keeping watch the entire time. She walked slowly back and forth across the deck, going from one pylon towards the next, carefully aiming her machine into the darkness. She exalted a minor flash of light, which occured sporadically, waiting carefully fot it to reach its conclusions before moving on to the next enigmatic outline. Gradually, a remarkably consistent and resillient picture began to emerge, one that was somewhat surprising given the location and circumstance.

(Continue to part two)