Raych said, "Come in, Mom. The coast is clear. I've sent Manella and Wanda off somewhere."
Dors entered, looked right and left out of sheer habit, and sat down in the nearest chair.
"Thanks," said Dors. For a while she simply sat there, looking as if the weight of the Empire were on her shoulders.
Raych waited, then said, "I never got a chance to ask you about your wild trip into the Palace grounds. It isn't every guy who has a mom who can do that."
"We're not talking about that, Raych."
"Well then, tell me. **You're not one for giving anything away by facial expressions, but you look sorta down. Why is that?"
"Because I feel, as you say, sorta down. In fact, I'm in a bad mood because I have terribly important things on my mind and there's no use talking to your father about it. He's the most wonderful man in the world, but he's very hard to handle. There's no chance that he'd take an interest in the dramatic. He dismisses it all as my irrational fears for his life-and my subsequent attempts to protect him."
"Come on, Mom, you do seem to have irrational fears where Dad's concerned. If you've got something dramatic in mind, it's probably all wrong."
"Thank you. You sound just like he does and you leave me frustrated. Absolutely frustrated."
"Well then, unburden yourself, Mom. Tell me what's on your mind. From the beginning."
"It starts with Wanda's dream."
"Wanda's dream! Mom! Maybe you'd better stop right now. I know that Dad won't want to listen if you start that way. I mean, come on. A little kid has a dream and you make a big deal of it. That's ridiculous."
"I don't think it was a dream, Raych. I think what she thought was a dream were two real people, talking about what she thought concerned the death of her grandfather."
"That's a wild guess on your part. What possible chance does this have of being true?"
"Just suppose it is true. The one phrase that remained with her was
'lemonade death.' Why should she dream that? It's much more likely that she heard that and distorted the words she heard-in which case, what were the undistorted words?"
"I can't tell you," said Raych, his voice incredulous.
Dors did not fail to catch that. "You think this is just my sick invention. Still, if I happen to be right, I might be at the start of unraveling a conspiracy against Hari right here in the Project."
"Are there conspiracies in the Project? That sounds as impossible to me as finding significance in a dream."
"Every large project is riddled with angers, frictions, jealousies of all sorts."
"Sure. Sure. We're talking nasty words and faces and nose thumbing and tale bearing. That's nothing at all like talking conspiracy. It's not like talking about killing Dad."
"It's just a difference in degree. A small difference-maybe."
"You'll never make Dad believe that. For that matter, you'll never make me believe that." Raych walked hastily across the room and back again, "And you've been trying to nose out this so-called conspiracy, have you?"
"And you've failed."
"Doesn't it occur to you that you've failed because there is no conspiracy, Mom?"
Dors shook her head. "I've failed so far, but that doesn't shake my belief that one exists. I have that feeling."
Raych laughed. "You sound very ordinary, Mom. I would expect more from you than 'I have that feeling."'
"There is one phrase that I think can be distorted into 'lemonade.' That's 'layman-aided.' "
"Laymanayded? What's that?"
"Layman-aided. Two words. A layman is what the mathematicians at the Project call nonmathematicians."
"Suppose," interjected Dors firmly, "someone spoke of 'layman-aided death,' meaning that some way could be found to kill Hari in which one or more nonmathematicians would play an essential role. Might that not have sounded to Wanda like 'lemonade death,' considering that she had never heard the phrase 'layman-aided' any more than you did, but that she was extraordinarily fond of lemonade?"
"Are you trying to tell me that there were people in Dad's private office, of all places. How many people, by the way?"
"Wanda, in describing her dream, says two. My own feeling is that one of the two was none other than Colonel Hender Linn of the junta and that he was being shown the Prime Radiant and that there must have been a discussion involving the elimination of Hari."
"You're getting wilder and wilder, Mom. Colonel Linn and another man in Dad's office talking murder and not knowing that there was a little girl hidden in a chair, overhearing them? Is that it?"
"More or less."
"In that case, if there is mention of laymen, then one of the people, presumably the one that isn't Linn, must be a mathematician."
"It would seem to be so."
"That seems utterly impossible. But even if it were true, which mathematician do you suppose might be in question? There are at least fifty in the Project."
"I haven't questioned them all. I've questioned a few and some laymen, too, for that matter, but I have uncovered no leads. Of course, I can't be too open in my questions."
"In short, no one you have interviewed has given you any lead on any dangerous conspiracy."
"I'm not surprised. They haven't done so, because-"
"I know your 'because,' Raych. Do you suppose people are going to break down and give away conspiracies under mild questioning? I am in no position to try to beat the information out of anyone. Can you imagine what your father would say if I upset one of his precious mathematicians?"
Then, with a sudden change in the intonation of her voice, she said, "Raych, have you talked to Yugo Amaryl lately?"
"No, not recently. He's not one of your sociable creatures, you know. If you pulled the psychohistory out of him, he'd collapse into a little pile of dry skin."
Dors made a face at the picture and said, "I've talked to him twice recently and he seems to me to be a little withdrawn. I don't mean just tired. It is almost as though he's not aware of the world."
"Yes. That's Yugo."
"Is he getting worse lately?"
Raych thought awhile. "He might be. He's getting older, you know. We all are. Except you, Mom."
"Would you say that Yugo had crossed the line and become a little unstable, Raych?"
"Who? Yugo? He has nothing to be unstable about. Or with. Just leave him at his psychohistory and he'll mumble quietly to himself for the rest of his life."
"I don't think so. There is something that interests him-and very strongly, too. That's the succession."
"I mentioned that someday your father might want to retire and it turns out that Yugo is determined-absolutely determined-to be his successor."
"I'm not surprised. I imagine that everyone agrees that Yugo is the natural successor. I'm sure Dad thinks so, too."
"But he seemed to me to be not quite normal about it. He thought I was coming to him to break the news that Hari had shoved him aside in favor of someone else. Can you imagine anyone thinking that of Hari?"
"It is surprising-" Raych interrupted himself and favored his mother with a long look. He said, "Mom, are you getting ready to tell me that it might be Yugo who's at the heart of this conspiracy you're speaking of? That he wants to get rid of Dad and take over?"
"Is that entirely impossible?"
"Yes, it is, Mom. Entirely. If there's anything wrong with Yugo, it's overwork and nothing else. Staring at all those equations or whatever they are, all day and half the night, would drive anyone crazy."
Dors rose to her feet with a jerk. "You're right."
Raych, startled, said, "What's the matter?"
"What you've said. It's given me an entirely new idea. A crucial one, I think." Turning, without another word, she left.