The next couple of pages take us back to Molly Grace’s HQ in ‘The Complex’ in Akwesasne.  For the most part it’s a re-hash of previous briefings where characters in the story go over what the reader already knows, although a few new tidbits are presented here.

When we last left the ‘the Complex’ at Akwesasne, Molly Grace had asked her chief of staff (Bill Whitefish) to keep an eye on things as they developed, and (I think) authorized Stevenson to recruit criminal members of the Warrior Posse into the Winnipeg operation.  That was (according to the timestamp in the book) around 1130 hrs.

“We will meet later this afternoon to gauge the results.” she said before walking out of the main ops room.  Even though it’s not clear exactly what her subordinates were supposed to do and then later gauge.[1]

In the interim, we saw Gen Bishop meet with the PM, then meet with his own staff (and give some potential treasonous orders).  We saw Will Boucanier give a total of one order to Joe Neetha, then spend several pages gazing at a map and contemplating the awesomeness of his plans, before mouthing off to the cops and sitting down to drink coffee.

There’s been no account of any other NPA cells taking action, nor has there been any description (in person or via briefings) of the police taking action against them.  A lot of people have talked, but nothing tangible has actually happened.

By late that afternoon the staff in the Complex were clearly excited.  No more drills, rehearsals, fits and starts.  It was really happening.  But when Molly walked in she was as cool as ever.  “Okay, what do we know?” she asked without preamble.

…uh.  It’s been really happening for four days now.  You guys already killed a man, remember?[2]

We know (by implication) that the NPA (or some kind of non-specified NPA affiliated protestors) are supposed to be on the streets of Montreal and Quebec City, causing all sorts of trouble.  There hasn’t been any scenes depicting these protests, or even any detailed mention of them during the various meetings and briefings we have seen, but they are (allegedly) happening.

This is where your standard hack writer shines.  A simple, one-off action scene with a protestor on one hand and an SQ police officer (or Mountie, or city police) to lend gravity to what might otherwise be a series of dry scenes in a conference room.  It’s a quick and easy way to have some consequence-free action: None of the characters you introduce need any detailed background or follow up, so you can generally do whatever you want without having to revisit the scene and bring things to an appropriate conclusion.

Instead, Bland being Bland, we skipped all the action and stuck with the conference room briefings.

Bill Whitefish glanced at his notes and said, “We know the armed forces are at a high state of alert and have reinforced their bases with a few reserve personnel.  The Patricias in Edmonton are assembling, but have no order to move, although the supporting Herc squadrons are on alert and the crews are sleeping on the base.  CFB Trenton has recalled all air crews and search-and-rescue teams, and all aircraft on training and domestic fights, and put them on short notice to move.  The Valcartier brigade is the most active.  The troops have reported to their units, vehicles are loaded, and commanders have tentative plans to move to Montreal and Quebec City.  But no one is going anywhere right now.  

“Significantly, the Valcartier units are on light ammo loads-just small arms weapons and not a lot of ammo in the lead units.  Seems their preparing to suppress a riot rather than fight a battle.  But the Western units and the Special Service Regiment are going heavy, lots of heavy weapons and ammo, which suggests they’re going to be the backup if things get nasty. 

The fact that the Van Doos are rolling out with only a light ammo load doesn’t make a whole lot of sense given that Valcartier itself was the scene of an actual shootout during the ammo compound raids a few days ago.  I can remember the reaction after Cpl Cirillo was killed at the War Memorial and WO Vincent was run over at St Jean-sur-Richelieu Quebec.  A light ammo load is what the guy guarding the gate will be carrying.[3]

Lacking any further evidence, I suspect that this is meant to be another shot against ‘political correctness’ tying the hands of our military.  But that doesn’t entirely jive with what we’ve been seeing from the Prime Minister or from Gen Bishop’s HQ.  PM Jack Hemp appears to be largely in denial, and while that is a problem, it does means he won’t be micromanaging anything like ammo load outs.  At the same time, the CDS has made it clear that he intends to take the uprising a lot more seriously than the government (serious to the point of treason later on).

So why is 5 Brigade rolling out with only a light ammo load?  The Prime Minister’s office is unlikely to notice the difference and having more firepower at the moment of contact could very well mean the difference between life and death.

But then consider this little gem, a few paragraphs later:

“There are few indications that anyone is much worried about the West, though local RCMP detachments near The Pas have asked for reinforcements because of the big rendezvous there.  They have also reported conversations in bars about a scheme to ‘get whitey’ but they think it refers to the usual local chatter by the Warrior Posse.”  Bill paused, inviting questions.

So the RCMP out west has noticed trouble is brewing eh?  Too bad nobody from Ottawa has bothered to put the word out that this isn’t just gang-related trash talk.  It should be noted that the ‘Warrior Posse’ will eventually become a pretty serious issue as the uprising progresses, so it’s not like the mounties are completely out to lunch with their concerns.  But why haven’t they been warned?[4]

We’ve already discussed how Bland’s “heroes” fail to pass on timely warnings to local police and military units in the name of some bizarre concept of ‘need-to-know’ but I’m surprised that Bland actually goes and admits this failure here in the text.  As we’ve seen from our duelling HQ’s chapter, information is flowing up but not down.  Now here’s the local RCMP detachments raising the alarm and nobody’s listening except the enemy.

It’s possible that Bland is doing this intentionally, but for that to be the case he would have to admit the Gen Bishop and Gen Lepine are running a pretty lousy campaign.  With a threat as widespread as the uprising, local eyes and ears are going to be crucial.  But if those local forces have no idea what’s going on, it will be pure chance whether they actually pass on useful information.

“Go on,” Molly ordered.  

“According to our sources in NDHQ, the prime minister is in a sweat.  He’s placed restrictions on the CDS, no moves without orders from him, even if Quebec asks for assistance.  Apparently his main concern is to avoid suggesting to the public that there’s a crisis out there.”  The staff looked to Molly as Bill folded his papers.

“Right,” she said, stepping to the front of the table.  “Let’s give the boy a few hints.  Are the Quebec teams ready, and what about Boucanier and the Western columns?”

“Warned and ready as planned,” confirmed the chief of staff.

[…]

Molly turned to her notes.  “Okay.  Give the Quebec cells the order to go beginning at first light tomorrow. I want chaos in the streets for morning rush hour, the police in a panic by noon, and a car bomb detonated against a military vehicle outside the gates of CFB Valcartier at the first sign that they’re responding.  Bill, you get hold of the moles in NDHQ.  We want to know immediately when the Western units get the go for Quebec and how many are on their way to Radisson.”  She paused to let the fast-scribbling staff to catch up.

“Op Thunder at James Bay is to begin at first light tomorrow, Friday.  We’ll judge the federal reaction tomorrow night and expect the main even to launch thirty-six hours later in Winnipeg.  Right, there’s lots to do, so everyone do your part.”

It’s frustrating that Bland doesn’t bother to give us any details about how his characters are obtaining this information. This meeting at Langevin Block ended just hours ago, and here’s Bill Whitefish giving a blow-by-blow on what was said.[5]

And how do they know about the Van Doos and their ammo load?  Do they have an NPA mole in Valcartier?  How do they know what’s happening in Langevin?  Is one of the aides a traitor (or just careless with their information)? Were this a Tom Clancy novel I would expect the introduction of another one-off character to heighten dramatic tension.

Instead, we have staff officers and NCOs in the Head Quarters talking about the information in the abstract without any mention of the source. I’ve been to a couple of HQ simulation exercises where events were delivered in very much the same way.

In exercises like this, you’re dealing with the movement of what are basically icons on a screen.  In real life they’d be fighting units made up of men and women who might die if things go wrong (and if things will go right, because fuck life).  But they don’t actually give these icons names (beyond their tac signs).  Even when the simulation is supposed to represent our existing Brigades and Divisions, nobody goes and says “Shit, the Cameron Highlanders’s B-Coy really got cut up in that village.”  It’s call sign India Two.

It’s worth noting that Bland spent a great deal of his career as a staff officer, and he probably went through all kinds of exercises like this.  I’m not sure if he was ever in an operational HQ in a real theatre where real lives are on the line.  I can’t help but wonder if this was how he would have treated information from Recce and OP parties running terrible risks out in the front lines.

Hey, here’s a crazy question! If the NPA has such good sources inside NDHQ, are they aware of Gen Bishop’s attempts to reach out to the Americans?

After all, they made a big deal over how Bishop’s inner circle was all but impenetrable by their wicked machinations.  But if they can pick up on the fact that Bishop is reaching out to the Americans[6], they may have finally found the leverage they need!

After all, if the CDS is a traitor (and he is), then the PM will have to fire him.  That kind of revelation, taking place right at the start of the Uprising could be devastating for the army.

I mean, I’d read a book like that.

***Our featured image today is a classic WW II propaganda poster, warning both soldiers and civilians of the importance of security.  Source.***

___________________

[1] It’s also not clear what she left to do.  Is she meeting with the council again?  Was she sending messages to her field commanders and supporters?  Was she taking a nap?

[2] Like Fred McTavish.  We remember.

[3] Carrying light weapons (rifles, light machine guns) might make a bit of sense if you’re expecting to tangle with lightly-armed terrorists and rioters in an urban environment, in that you’d still out-gun the bad guys but your weaponry is less likely to tear up buildings and cause collateral damage.  You’d still want piles of ammo, though.

[4] There are several scenes at military headquarters where Generals are discussing similar such reports, but at a later part in the novel we’ll have a one-off action scene (!!!) where an RCMP officer is essentially trapped in his detachment office by NPA warriors and supporters, except he doesn’t realize it yet because he has no clear idea that this is all part of one giant conspiracy.

[5] It’s an impressive achievement, but not totally unexpected.  The implication given in the scenes at Langevin Block seemed to imply that the meeting was being swarmed by dozens of MPs and their staff, without any serious attempt to control who was present.  A situation like that is just asking for leaks.

[6] I don’t know what actual mechanisms are involved in one General calling another.  Since Bishop directed one of his staff members to set up the call, does that mean he’s using the NDHQ phone system?  If that’s the case, would the call be logged or recorded?  On the other hand, going off of Rick Hillier’s memoire, it’s not unheard of for allied generals to develop personal friendships.  If Bishop knows Gen Leonardo, why not call his cell?

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