Nuclear Sabotage

5604 words

1 (600) Preventing first sabotage attempt

The blaring of a warning siren was never a welcome sound, and it was least welcome in the control room of a nuclear power plant. The flood simulation test was not going well. It was out of normal shift hours in the evening, and fewer staff than normal were present in the plant due to a shift scheduling SNAFU.

“That’s Signal 2QN,” said Annalise, Senior Reactor Control Engineer and the staff member with final responsibility during the test.

She left the paper manual open at the indicator signal index.

“Signal 2QN is not part of the flood simulation test routine,” Annalise continued. “It’s a real warning about external water entering the lower coolant pump units.”

Annalise relied on training and experience to remain calm during an incident like this, but a less refined part of her was straining to rush up as panic at the severity of what she was saying.

Henry, the new Political Supervisor who had arrived that week after being dispatched to the position by the Central Committee, lounged in one of the operator chairs and watched Annalise run through the test.

“Well that’s impossible, isn’t it?” said Henry.

He made notes in a little notepad and clicked his pen between thoughts.

“Watershed monitoring is all normal, isn’t it?” Henry continued. “It hasn’t rained for days and it’s not forecast to rain for several days more.”

Henry’s languid attitude set off a quiet internal alarm in Annalise’s mind, but she ignored it for the moment. They needed to figure out how the coolant water level alarm was firing.

Annalise rolled her operator chair over to the system monitoring read-outs next to her regular work station. On her desk to one side sat the small and unfocused photograph of her daughter, Lucia. Final exams were not far away at the local university and Lucia would be studying in her dormitory, aiming for a high grade in her journalism degree. Lucia said wanted to present the nation in the best possible light to the foreign media and the rest of the world. Annalise suppressed personal thoughts of her child and focused on the issue that the reactor was presenting.

According to the monitoring read-outs, everything was normal. The coolant system was at regular capacity and flow. The pumps were operating normally on reactor power from Units A through C, and the emergency diesel pumps were fuelled and ready to take over in an emergency. No excess water was detected according to the system monitor, yet warning Signal 2QN was firing nonetheless.

“I need to go and make a visual inspection of the coolant level gauge on Level 2,” said Annalise after making her decision. “The coolant water signal firing doesn’t make sense based on everything else I can see from the control room. That’s the anomaly that needs investigating first.”

“Oh, is that really necessary?” said Henry, with a weak smile. “It’s a test routine, after all. Things are supposed to go wrong during a test!”

Annalise tried to select for explanation one of the many reasons this was an unacceptable attitude.

“Test or no test, we’re in a real nuclear power plant and –” Annalise began.

“It’s a formality,” said Henry. “Of course there’s no real issue. Central explained it to me in my brief. I just need to check some boxes and make a report that we went through the test routine according to the manual. That’s all.”

“This isn’t part of the test routine,” said Annalise. She stood up and went to the door of the control room. “As the Senior Engineer I have final responsibility during the test. I’m going to check the visual coolant gauge.”

Annalise’s work boots made dull clangs on the metal stairs as she made her way down to Level 2 at a brisk pace. Instinct told her that the warning signal was indeed a false alarm, but the same set of instincts also told her that it was exactly those things one is sure of that one must try to disprove. Double checking and disproving assumptions was a principle she had maintained throughout her career, and it would not be a principle if she chose when to apply it.

The visual gauge confirmed that coolant levels were normal and that no external water could have entered the system. Annalise moved on to make manual inspections of the pumps and the emergency backup diesel generators. On direct inspection, the nuclear plant was happy to confirm that it was operating normally. So why was it also firing the warning signal in the control room? It was as if the system was trying to scare them.

Annalise made her decision about how to proceed and returned to the control room, where Henry had not moved from the operator chair he had taken residence in earlier that evening.

“It would be best to perform a controlled shut down of all reactor units while we confirm that everything is safe and identify the cause of the false alarm,” said Annalise in a matter-of-fact voice.

“That’s going to attract negative attention from Central and I don’t think that’s what the plant or your team want right now,” said Henry.

There was still that odd element in his demeanour that Annalise couldn’t quite figure out the meaning of.

“I suppose there might be no choice in the mind of an engineer, but in the end all of what we do is for the good of the nation,” said Henry, watching Annalise’s face as he spoke.

What could he be hiding behind the facade of a bored Political Supervisor sent out on this career-building excursion from Central? While he was outwardly suggesting that he would prefer to avoid a shutdown, he also gave the impression that a shutdown was what he’d been hoping for from the start.

Annalise shook off the irrelevant consideration of what her temporary and non-technical colleague might be thinking. There was only one correct course of action in the situation.

“I’m going to cancel the test routine and initiate the controlled shutdown procedure,” said Annalise.

Henry eyed the coolant water warning signal.

“If a shutdown is necessary then would it not be best to go all the way and trigger a scram?” said Henry, his gaze moving across the control panels from the warning signal light to the scram button inside its locked frame.

As Senior Engineer on shift, Annalise carried a copy of the key to unlock the scram button.

“A scram is an emergency shutdown when we need to terminate the fission reaction as rapidly is possible,” said Annalise. “It has its own risks, especially in the reactor design at this plant.”

The expression on Henry’s face cooled a little and he looked at Annalise as if she were a puzzle that had become unexpectedly difficult. Annalise took his silence as a cue to continue.

“There is a known theoretical flaw with the design of the scram mechanism in the reactor here – in the wrong conditions, initiating the scram could temporarily displace water that would otherwise have been absorbing more neutrons from the fission reaction than the control rods do,” Annalise explained, checking for Henry’s comprehension.

Henry looked both bored and disappointed at this, as if the scram button were a toy that he had been hoping to play with.

“If the reactor conditions are not checked before initiating the scram, it’s possible that the scram could cause a perverse increase in the fission reaction rate for a few moments, which would be dangerous,” Annalise finished her recall of that part of her education from years before.

Henry clicked his pen one last time and stood up.

“Very well, please proceed with the controlled shutdown procedure, then,” he said. This was not his decision to make, but Annalise ignored the instruction.

Henry left the control room. Annalise began the controlled shutdown procedure, following the paper manual and checking off the steps, even though she could recall the procedure from memory.

Annalise handed over to the night shift and went over the evening’s minor anomalies with them. She walked the short distance to the small flat she and Lucia had been allocated when she took up her position at the plant. The street lamps on the way flickered to match the many failing lights in the windows of the large square mass of the apartment block.

Lucia was at her university dormitory, working on a group student project involving a mediated collaboration with foreign media. Annalise ate a dinner of leftovers on her own. Later, lying in bed and ignoring the shuffling of her neighbours through the wall, Annalise could not shake the feeling that Henry’s underlying hope had been that reason could be found for a scram to be triggered. Had Central not briefed him on the specifics of this plant? Was his knowledge of the risks of the scram procedure actually the cause of his desire for it to be triggered?

Annalise spent her next shift at the plant investigating the small incident. Several of her colleagues brushed it off. It must have been a faulty indicator light, that’s all. Nothing went wrong, so why spend the time when we’ve got too many other demands from Central anyway?

Henry was due to be on site again that day but had not yet arrived. Some other unfamiliar men in drab suits did show up, however, flashing Central Committee identification documents to the plant security crew. Their hard heeled leather shoes tapped confidently on the concrete floor of Level 1. One of them approached Annalise as she opened a coolant pipe inspection hatch.

“Ah, our Reactor Control Engineer. I’m Gareth Cliffton, we’re here on a routine visit from the Central Committee” he said, smiling but not extending a hand. “I heard from our colleague Henry that you helped avert a minor incident here the other evening.”

Annalise had more than helped, she had handled the entire situation, and any potential incident was only minor because of her decision making to control it. It would not be wise to cause a confrontation with someone from the Central Committee, however. Best to let them busy themselves and head back to their meetings.

“There was an error with the coolant warning signal light that we have not yet been able to explain,” said Annalise.

“I understand that there could have been an opportune moment to test the emergency scram shutdown procedure, but that opportunity was missed on this occasion,” said the man from Central.

“There are theoretical risks with the scram procedure that mean we avoid unnecessary and unscheduled tests of that system,” said Annalise. “We only test it on the required schedule and with a specific test routine.”

Cliffton asked for a casual tour of the plant, and Annalise felt obliged to put her investigation on hold and take the Committee members around the areas of the plant that were generally open to non-technical personnel, giving them a layman’s guide to basic the operation of the plant as they moved around.

Throughout the tour, the conversation of the Committee members was awkward and they seemed to be focused on some kind of agenda that they might have agreed between themselves beforehand. The topic kept coming back to the emergency scram procedure the conditions that Annalise thought might justify an unscheduled test of that system.

“Mum, can you come to the bar and meet me to walk back?” said Lucia. There was only one bar she was likely to be at in the small town.

“I thought you were coming straight home from the dormitory earlier?” said Annalise.

“Yeah, I know,” said Lucia. “A few of us came out here for a bit first. It’s not like it’s late or anything.”

“OK, and how much is this call costing you?” said Annalise.

Annalise arrived at the bar and went inside to look for her daughter. She walked amongst rows of small private booths in which groups sat drinking amid quiet conversation. One voice was familiar. Was that not Cliffton, from the Central Committee?

“Central has decreed and we will oblige,” Cliffton was saying. “The nation needs its revenue from international petroleum sales more than it needs electricity from nuclear, and the progressive vision represented by one threatens the other. I hope I don’t need to explain which is which.”

His voice was more casual and relaxed than the forced formality he had displayed with Annalise in the plant.

“The public is already halfway against nuclear energy anyway, anti-science luddites that they are,” said Cliffton. “It won’t take much to swing the balance firmly against continuing with this risky business of generating electricity through nuclear fission.”

Annalise’s insides froze. What was he talking about? Annalise tried to force herself to continue discreetly through the booths to look for Lucia, but her feet wouldn’t cooperate and instead kept her in the same spot, from where she could overhear the conversation of the Committee men.

“And what exactly will be the nature of the incident that we’ll be causing?” said another voice. “Rather you than me, Henry, to be inside that bloody plant when it happens.”

“Oh it won’t be anything that serious,” said Henry, the Political Supervisor. “An irregular emission of some amount of coolant that in theory could be contaminated but in practice actually won’t be. Perhaps we can set off some Geiger counters in the lab at the university somehow. In any case I’d say that control room is probably the safest place to be most of the time!”

“I have to say,” a third voice piped up. “Does it not unnerve any of you, at least a little? The senior control engineer – or whatever she’s supposed to be called – thinks that the scram procedure is too risky to even attempt outside of a test planned months in advance, or in a real emergency?”

“I doubt that anyone in this backwards little town knows more about it than the chief scientific officers at Central, not even the so-called senior engineer,” said Cliffton.

The scrape of a chair alerted Annalise that one of the men from Central might be about to leave their booth, and she hurried further down into the bar.

“Mum!” Lucia called out to Annalise.

Lucia stood up from the table in the booth where she was sitting with her classmates and came out to her mother, as if to stop Annalise from getting too close and embarrassing her.

“Are you alright, Mum?” said Lucia. “You look so worried.”

On their way out of the bar, they encountered Cliffton and his associates paying off their tab at the counter. Cliffton stared at Annalise as she walked past with Lucia. Annalise would have preferred to pretend she had not scene him and to continue home, but Cliffton spoke before she could.

“Annalise, isn’t it?” he said. “You graciously showed us around the nuclear plant the other day.”

Annalise introduced her daughter and the two sides exchanged pleasantries while the rest of the committee men shuffled past with varying levels of dismay on their faces as they saw Annalise in the bar where they might have been speaking too openly over too many whiskies.

Annalise jolted awake at the sound of the flood siren shearing through the town in the night. For a few seconds, various moments from recent days and longer in her past rushed in front of her before she got her bearings and felt present in her bedroom in the dark. No flooding had been forecast. What was going on?

She flicked on the beside lamp and looked at the clock. 4:38 am. Her slippers were next to the bed and she rolled out to put them on and get ready to head to the nuclear plant. Regulations stipulated that all senior technical staff remain in the plant when flooding was imminent, and in any case Annalise wouldn’t have left her colleagues alone in a situation like this.

Lucia was still asleep despite the flood siren blaring outside. The joys of being young. Best to let her carry on sleeping and not worry over what was probably a false alarm or a small overflow from the river.

Outside the front door, heavy rain struck accumulated water on the ground. Annalise put on rain boots and a waterproof coat and headed out into the elements. Not a false alarm, then. She cursed and swished through the rising water, and the current pressed the cold rubber sides of the boots against her legs. The street lights flickered but confirmed that the grid was still delivering normal levels of power. No doubt in the control room at the plant, Signal 2QN would still be firing. At least it might be on to something now.

Cliffton and Henry made an unlikely pair to appear in the plant staff kitchen at 5:00 am. They sipped at mugs of instant coffee without enthusiasm.

“You didn’t need to attend this,” said Annalise as she put together her own caffeine fix.

“I heard the flood siren and thought I should come,” said Henry. “Turns out Gareth did the same. It’s no bother.”

The flood waters had not relented for several hours, and were now lapping at the top of the defensive wall that protected Level 0. The car park and roads around the plant were under more than a metre of water.

Henry was speaking to his colleagues via the external telephone line.

“They can’t get any vehicle through at all?” Henry said down the telephone, glancing at Cliffton.

A loud shunting sound shook the space and the lights went out. The backup diesel generators kicked in with a grinding grumble, and the lights came back up.

“Hello? Hello?” Henry said into the receiver of the external phone line. He pressed the hang up catch in a quick rhythm as if it might resurrect the connection.

“We’ve lost grid power and I think the phone lines went down with it,” said Annalise. “No-one will be able to reach us until the flood recedes.”

“But the coolant pumps really are flooded now aren’t they?” said Henry, the word “really” betraying more inside knowledge about the prior incident than he had let on at the time. “We can’t stay here.”

“That’s the reality of the situation,” said Annalise. “There’s no arguing with reality. Can or can’t stay, we have no choice.”

Lucia would most likely be safe from the flooding on the university campus, but there was no way to be certain for the time being.

“I need to get to the control room and initiate the shutdown procedure manually as soon as possible,” said Annalise.

Henry was about to say something, but Cliffton spoke over him.

“She’s right, Henry,” said Cliffton. “We’ve no choice but to abandon the plan.”

Cliffton cast a fearful look at Annalise, but she already knew their secret.

“There’s no need to abandon it,” said Henry, straightening up his shoulders. “This will more than cover what we needed out of some kind of safety incident. We even put ourselves in real danger!”

Henry gave a false smile.

“Yes, where would you suggest is safest for us to be while you do your work, Annalise?” said Cliffton.

“If you can’t get out of the plant, then the control room is the best place to be,” said Annalise. “And in any case, if the shit really does hit the fan then you’ll be best off where I can warn you soonest so we can make a last-ditch escape effort.”

Henry swallowed and Cliffton laughed with unease.

“It won’t come to that,” said Annalise.

Annalise took them in the direction of the control room.

As the three of them approached the stairs up from Level 2, a large steam pipe on the wall by the staircase rattled and shook in a threatening beat. The bolts holding it to the wall screeched as the motion of the pipe jostled them in their sockets.

“There’s excessive pressure in the steam system,” said Annalise.

This was outside of nominal parameters.

A burst of loud bangs rang out like gunfire as the steam pipe ruptured at several points, and ultra-heated steam rocketed out in powerful jets. Annalise jumped and pulled the two men down to the metal decking with her.

The force of the steam escaping swung the pipe out of its brackets like a giant club, and it slammed into the metal staircase, which also gave way. The stairs collapsed and crashed down on to Level 1, leaving a precarious gap in front of Annalise and the two men from Central on Level 2.

After the violence subsided, they got back to their feet, Annalise steadier on hers than the two bureaucrats. Henry hands and legs shook a little.

They were trapped on Level 2. The light of the control room window shone out above them, out of reach. Annalise swore and headed across Level 2 to the internal telephone terminal. They had only the internal telephone system to communicate with Sam in the control room now.

“The coolant pumps could fail at any moment,” Annalise said into the receiver. “We have to start the shutdown as soon as possible. It should have started automatically when the flood defensive walls were overwhelmed.”

The noise of the plant was loud under normal conditions, and with the system under excessive and escalating load, it was hard to converse through the tinny internal telephone system. Annalise clamped the receiver to one ear and put a finger in her other ear to block out the cacophony of the plant. Henry and Cliffton tried to huddle in closer in a futile attempt to participate.

“The controlled shutdown procedure will take too long,” Sam’s voice came back down the line and out of the speakers. “We’d be risking coolant flow failure and a feedback loop of rising core temperature and fission reaction rate.”

“The scram is too risky,” Annalise said in a firm tone.

“But the emergency scram,” Henry interrupted the conversation. “Annalise, didn’t you say yourself that there was a theoretical risk?”

“Yes and I’d say it’s more than theoretical right now,” Annalise replied to Henry, shouting into the phone receiver as well for Sam’s benefit in the control room. “The core temperature is high and the control rod channels are full of water. A scram will force the control rods into the core as fast as the system can push them. Where is all that hot water going to go?”

“It will be forced out by the entry of the control rods,” said Sam. “That’s the design of the scram procedure and how it’s been tested –”

“No, that’s exactly the point,” Annalise cut off her colleague on the phone. “It has not been tested in conditions of imminent pump failure and maximum water levels in the core.”

“I’m sorry Annalise, but I think it’s our only safe choice right now,” said Sam.

The phone line went to static. Henry and Cliffton stepped towards Annalise with frantic faces.

“Sam? Sam?” Annalise said into the receiver while looking up to the control room window where she might see Sam’s movements.

Cliffton snatched the receiver from Annalise.

“Sam, you listen to me,” Cliffton said, his voice urgent and lacking convincing authority. “Do not initiate the emergency scram. Follow the controlled shutdown procedure. We still have time.”

“Less keen for that scram now that you know how big the consequences could be?” said Annalise, letting go of any professional facade. “And while you’re in the plant to experience those consequences first hand?”

Cliffton swore and Henry paced back and forth with his hands in his greasy hair. Both of them had taken off their suit jackets and loosened their shirts, which had large dark patches of sweat down the back and around the armpits.

There was no indication that Sam had activated the scram nor the controlled shutdown procedure. The light from the control room window was unmoving.

“What were you thinking?” said Annalise to Henry and Cliffton.

“Oh for God’s sake,” replied Henry. “This was never the plan. The floods were not planned and the damned staircase wasn’t either.”

Cliffton was calmer.

“We thought, or we were told at least, that the scram procedure would lead to an inconsequential emission of coolant that on paper could have been radioactive but that in actual fact would not be,” said Cliffton. “Just enough of an incident to cause a scare and damage the industry for a few years.”

“But why would you want that?” said Annalise, incredulous even though she knew the answer already.

“We act always in the best interests of the nation as a whole,” said Cliffton. “Our petroleum gas industry is highly valuable on international export markets, but the whole lot could become worthless if the world accepts nuclear energy as an alternative for gas energy.”

“So you’d endanger the human lives in this town and the future of this technology to protect some short-term revenue?” said Annalise.

Before Cliffton could answer, the sound of heavy machinery gearing up for operation interrupted their conversation. At the centre of the plant, the control rod system kicked into motion.

“Sam has triggered the scram,” said Annalise.

She pushed the two men in front of her by their shoulders and urged them towards the edge of the building, as far away from the core as they could go. There was no time to try to get onto a different level, and Annalise was too frantic to calculate if they would even benefit from doing so anyway. The three of them pressed against the inner wall of the plant on Level 2, all of them drenched in sweat and breathing heavily.

“Get down into a protective position and cover your head with your hands,” said Annalise, unsure herself if anything they could do would help them at all if the scram procedure caused a steam explosion while they were inside the plant.

A low roar began in the core as the control rods rushed downwards to complete the scram. A celestial, rushing hiss ensued before Annalise was struck by a concussive force and lost all sense of presence in the plant. Her vision dimmed and the world was a silent place, audible only as a distant ringing.

Annalise returned to consciousness and put out a hand to get up. The metal decking of Level 2 was twisted out of shape in a frozen iron wave pattern spreading out from the core. The machinery over the core had been blasted to pieces, and the night stars were visible through a hole in the plant roof dozens of metres above it. The control rod apparatus had been propelled into the sky like a stone from a slingshot. A few seconds later, a secondary, distant boom rang out across the land and through the plant as the remains of the control machinery crashed back into the earth.

In the midst of all this destruction, the core itself stood intact with the majority of the control rods stuck into it, their tops sheared off from the absent machinery that had been above them moments before.

Cliffton stirred beside her on the decking of Level 2. He groaned and strained to get up. Blood slid in twin rivers from his nose and down his forehead from a wound on his head. He was at least conscious and moving.

Behind Cliffton, Henry had fared less well. A large piece of the metal decking had been ripped from its position and flown on a collision course with Henry’s cowering position by the internal wall. The forces involved were such that Henry’s remains were barely recognisable as human. Annalise looked away. It must have been a quick and painless death, albeit one preceded by extreme fear.

Annalise woke in the night and knew where she was. The radiological control and treatment ward of the town’s hospital, now over capacity and struggling to cope with treatment of the plant staff who had been present on the night of the steam explosion. Annalise suspected that their isolation in the radiological control ward was precautionary, having checked a Geiger counter as she hobbled out of the plant amongst the walking wounded. There did not seem to have been a radiological leak.

The steam explosion must have come from the overloaded coolant piping system, and from a section leading to the core and not away from it. The high pressure steam that propelled the control apparatus away into the night sky had been safe incoming water, perhaps by no more than random chance. The sequence of events could have been one in a million, but that singular sequence was one that lead to the release of pressure via clean coolant and not contaminated.

Annalise checked the beds around her for signs of movement. Her ward-mates were asleep, or pretending to be. She slipped out of bed and moved with caution across the ward floor. She was about to take a risk, and one that might be unforgivable for someone with her nuclear physics background. If she was wrong about the lucky avoidance of radiological contamination, by leaving the ward she would be pretty other people’s health and lives at risk by possible proximity with her radioactive body. Both her instinct and her rational mind said that the Geiger reading had been accurate, and that her theory about the mechanics of the steam explosion were correct. She opened the door to the ward and headed through the corridors to the hospital telephones.

In the dead of night, the hospital was quiet but not devoid of all activity. As a high profile patient, Annalise would be unlikely to benefit from from anonymity if someone saw her. She checked corners and found alternative routes through the corridors and staircases, reading and re-reading the directions on the walls at regular intervals to find the telephones.

The vestibule containing the phones was dark, but when Annalise tried the door, it was unlocked. She pushed the door open slowly, slipped inside, and clicked the door shut behind her. Her eyes began to adjust to the dark. Phones and the shallow booths around them emerged in the gloom.

“I’ve always been able to rely on my intuition,” said Cliffton from the corner.

Annalise jumped and a small shriek escaped from her mouth. She pressed her back to the door.

“I thought you would take your only chance to get your version of events out into the world,” said Cliffton, standing up and making his way towards her across the vestibule.

Annalise backed away in the opposite direction, moving around the space to keep her distance from Cliffton.

“Ever since we met you at the plant we knew you weren’t correctly aligned with our interests,” Cliffton continued. “And correct alignment with our interests is just the same as correct alignment with the interests of the nation.”

“What are you afraid of?” said Annalise. “I don’t even have any hard evidence. It would just be my word against yours, and we both know whose word would win out in that scenario.”

“And yet you still found your way to this communications office in the middle of the night,” said Cliffton. “I agree that it would achieve nothing for you to babble your interpretation to, who – domestic media? The correct reporting line was sent to the editors before we even set foot in the plant.”

“And I have no way to get anything out to the foreign media,” Annalise finished Cliffton’s rationalising for him.

Cliffton stood next to Annalise and gripped her shoulder firmly.

“Time to go,” he said.

Annalise’s plan had worked, or most likely worked, and she had nothing to gain from telling Cliffton about it. But the urge to score one last victory over this man from Central, this over-politicised creature who knew the machinations of everything and the mechanics of nothing, was too strong to resist. The prize of beating him with something would be sweet.

They walked back to the ward, Cliffton’s hand on Annalise’s shoulder to control her pace. The journey back through the hospital took several minutes, and Annalise assessed that enough time had probably passed for it to be too late for Cliffton to act on any revelation she might give him.

Instead Annalise let her lips the form the words but voiced them with less than a whisper, just to taste the possibility of telling Cliffton that she had already gone to a different public phone in the hospital, and phoned another public phone in the university dormitory building where Lucia lived. Lucia, her daughter who was studying for a degree in journalism and was currently able to contact foreign media representatives to facilitate a group project.

It had been a gamble whether or not Lucia would answer the dorm phone, but she had.

“It’s me, but don’t say any names or your relationship with me,” said Annalise.

“What?” said Lucia, but was quick-witted enough to follow the instruction.

Annalise gave her daughter the crucial information about the conspiracy surrounding the nuclear plant, the nation’s petroleum exports, and the planned risk-taking with people’s lives. Lucia was to use a different public phone to give the minimum viable details of the events to anyone in the foreign media.

Annalise resisted the temptation to tell any of this to the smug Cliffton who still believed he had defeated her. In the hospital ward, Annalise waited once more for a long silence, then slipped away again. She and her daughter would have to disappear on their own terms before the truth broke out.