So the invasion and occupation of Montreal really ballooned out into something, didn’t it?
It’s something I’ve found is a hard balance to strike as I write this blog. On one hand, I don’t want to get bogged down in the minute details of every last scene in this awful novel. On the other hand…so much of it is so very wrong. Luckily the next few scenes are going to run by a bit quicker, but…well…that’s not going to last. You’ve been warned.
So let’s check in with Will Boucanier up in James Bay, as he leads his rag-tag group of NPA Warriors in a daring raid on the Robert Bourassa Dam. Unlike the fighting in Montreal or the upcoming battle in Winnipeg, with the James’ Bay front, we have an in-depth look (by Bland’s standards) at the structure of this Native rebellion. We’ve actually been introduced to not just one but two (!!!) named characters in the NPA, and we even have the identity and motivation of their primary rival, Bob Ignace. Not only that, but while most of the Warriors are faceless pawns, we do get to find out that they are mostly AWOL Rangers who quit the army in a mass desertion that somehow didn’t become a national scandal.
This action, more than any other, has the potential to really get into the heart and soul of what Bland envisions this uprising will be. Who are the people fighting in it, and how will that impact the larger conflict? In the last part where we got to listen in to Boucanier’s plan, we know that the police station was going to be the last target captured, which seemed like foreshadowing to me. Perhaps we’re going to have some kind of grand confrontation between Will Boucanier and Bob Ignace? That might be worthwhile.
So let’s do this thing!
The attack on the generating facilities at Radisson by A Team was literally a walkover
For fuck’s sake…
The attack on the generating facilities at Radisson by A Team was literally a walkover, different from a tourist visit only because the warriors came early, stayed late, and carried weapons.
I’m guessing this is what passes for humour. Never mind that it drains the 1,200 words which follow of any tension or suspense. But there isn’t even going to be any first hand, on the scene accounts of any human reaction whatsoever.
The staff, though not welcoming, weren’t overtly hostile. Will Boucanier’s team forced the unarmed guards to open the doors, making sure – unintentionally, it seemed to the staff – those further inside the station had time to alert their supervisor, who in turn had time to call Montreal. Then the A Team rounded up the workers, locked them in the tourist reception area, and prepared to defend the site.
I guess we should be grateful that we’re getting third person omniscient instead of a Power Point.
Next, we get to talk about explosives!
The Bay Bombers, as they informally called themselves, went first to the generating rooms and wrapped short-fused detonating cord around the critical panels and larger electrical circuit lines. At the same time, others wired the vital control room machinery so the complex could be put out of action for days, maybe weeks, simply by setting off those few charges.
Just for the record, this is the only time they’re going to call themselves that. We will never hear the name ‘Bay Bombers’ again in this book.
So Det Cord is a form of medium explosive that looks like yellow coax cable. It’s meant to be used as a trigger for the more powerful (and more stable) C4, but it can be used for demolition of less durable objects in and of itself. Wrapping a couple of loops around a desktop computer’s tower, for example, is a good way to ensure that the computer is obliterated as the cord carries the explosive force to the main C4 charge.
It sounds like the Det Cord is wired to be trigger with something called ‘Time Fuse’ which is basically a classic burning string-type device. It looks like grey coax cable. It can be lit by a conventional match, a special ‘rail-fusile’ match (which doesn’t produce sparks or open flame), or a kind of trigger where you pull a pin and it ignites the fuse. The only major difference between Time Fuse and the stuff you see in the movies is that, instead of a sparkling flame that you’d see in movies and cartoons, Time Fuse smoulders and distorts.
What’s important about this detail is that, if the time fuse is installed, that would mean the actual detonators have been ‘taped in’ to the system as well. This is going to be significant in a moment.
Meanwhile, members of the A Team are fortifying the position.
At the same time, outside the facilities, team leaders began to fortify the site. The road to Radisson was blocked after the attack by trucks brought up to the site by C Team. The trucks also carried equipment not needed in the assault, which the warriors now used to build camouflaged firing positions. A larger party of warriors walked back along the irregular winding paths between rough mounds of stone and deep ponds they had used an hour before, stringing simple barbed-wire obstacles at knee height or lower. Where they could, they drove short takes into the hard ground, then loosely stretched the wire from stake to stake. Where the ground was too hard, they used rocks, bushes, or anything else handy.
This low wire entanglement was meant to delay, exhaust, and confound troops trying to rush the facilities. As they advanced, they would trip, fall, and with luck become briefly entangled. And if they avoided the traps, soldiers would tend to fall into single files as they found lanes through the wire, created bunched-up targets. The warriors had only what wire could be brought up in small trucks after they captured the station, not much by military standards, but enough to complicate the enemy’s expected attack.
Speaking as someone who’s had to set up and tear down concertina wire (sometimes called razor wire), I’m pretty confident in saying here that Bland has no idea what he’s talking about. Concertina wire, even when it’s brand new and tightly coiled, is pretty bulky to transport. Each coil is like a nightmare slinky a meter in diameter that measures about 20-25m when stretched out, so you need a lot of coils to build a significant obstacle.
On top of that, just stretching out a coil and dropping it on the ground does not make an obstacle of any significance. Unless you’ve actually driven fence posts into the ground, and built a framework out of conventional barbed wire (sometimes called fence wire) to support the concertina, then it’s going to be a very easy obstacle for attacking forces to breach. Dropping something onto an unsupported concertina coil will instantly flatten it, allowing troops to step over without difficulty.
***As an interesting side note, this whole ‘stretch out the coil and call it a day’ version of obstacle construction is a pretty common gold-bricker’s tactic for avoiding work. A proper fence takes time and effort to set up, and still more effort to tear down afterwards, lending incentive to the lazy soldier to do a half-assed job. As a Sgt, this is one of my personal axes to grind to the point where I’ve reduced a master-jack to tears once for having allowed their troops to get away with it. If this is what Bland thinks constitutes real obstacle construction, then I’m thinking his troops back in the day did not respect him very much.***
After Will finished his recce, the other teams check in as ordered.
B Team at Chisasibi had accomplished all their objectives by ten hundred hours. The town was under control, and the authorities, such as they were, had not only surrendered, most had quickly joined their relatives in the team. With the town secured, Joe Neetha sent a small patrol in a confiscated police pickup to make contact with C Team on the road to Radisson, and assigned others to blockade the streets at key intersections. He reserved for himself the duty of leading half the team to set up observation posts overlooking the airport. Once they were in place, a few shots fired well over the control tower convinced the employees to take a sick day and the airport quickly went quiet. Then Neetha and his team sat down to await whatever might come their way.
…there is no control tower at Chisasibi Airport.
The town of Radisson was secured by C Team almost as easily as Chiasibi had been, except for a brief skirmish near the police station. Bob Ignace himself was captured early on, not far from the generating station, as he responded to the silent alarm there. The rest of the on-duty police spotted the intruders and put up token resistance, but they were taken prisoner after a couple of nervous, inaccurate shots were fired by both sides. The rest of the small off-duty force was simply rounded up in their homes and locked up in their own jail.
So we’ve gone over this before, but the local law enforcement for Chisasibi is handled by the Eeyou Eenou Police Force (EEPF) and not the RCMP. These ‘authorities‘ are answerable to the Cree Regional Authority, a First Nations government representing the unified Cree Bands throughout Northern Québec. The Cree nation of Northern Quebec is exceptional in that they’re organized on a pretty broad scale over an pretty large geographic region, but the idea of self-governing Bands with their own police force is pretty common these days. Statistically, most First Nations still depend on the RCMP for their law enforcement, but Band police are becoming more and more common every year.
This raises a huge question in terms of chain of command within the Movement. If we assume the entire Cree Regional Authority is onboard with Molly Grace, then they are going to make up a substantial voting block within the Movement. The Mohawks might outrank them by sheer numbers (especially if they’re linked up with the Six Nations’ Confederacy), but the Northern Cree now hold the James Bay Hydro Electric Dam. Probably the most valuable piece of real-estate in Canada and the strongest single piece of leverage the Movement has.
Operation Thunder has just made the Cree Regional Authority the dominant bloc in the Movement. On top of that, they’re also geographically isolated from the rest of Canada, meaning that an attack aimed at the rest of the Movement won’t threaten them at all…
Historically speaking this is the place when a broadly based rebel movement fractures and Balkanizes. One faction is fighting for its life in the population centre of the country, while another sits safely in a more isolated region and debates whether they really want to get involved. If this was a darker novel, I’d expect that Will Boucanier was deliberately planted into Chisasibi by Molly Grace as a way of keeping the Cree leadership in line.
Other town officials and the radio station were taken without any difficulty by C Team members walking through town with long guns in their hands and murder in their eyes, just as Boucanier had anticipated. No one was killed or even injured.
Lines like this get thrown out by Bland throughout the novel. It’s kind of a 1980s ‘that’s not a knoife, THIS is a knoife’ need to not only take control but to intimidate them into submission as well. The thing I just want to point out is that most of those people walking in the streets with murder in their eyes are kids. Kids are awesome in a lot of ways, but they’re still kids. This moment, when the kids are given guns and given power, possibly for the first time in their lives? This moment is dangerous.
Managing troops and adjusting to their individual personalities is a whole other post (or series of posts) under the Leadership tag. I just want to say, this is a huge moment. It’s not a throwaway moment. You’ve taken a huge step and put a bunch of guns into the hands of a bunch of kids, and now they’re running the town. This is where a strong personality like Will Boucanier would be earning his pay. If he wasn’t sitting around at the Robert Bourassa Dam feeling proud of himself instead.
Will turned to the map his guys had tacked to the wall. Op Thunder, though the Hollywood ring of the nickname embarrassed him, had gone well so far. But he needed a response from his old comrades in the Canadian Forces to make it a complete success. He nodded a couple of times, deep in thought, then turned to the site supervisor, who stood, visibly shaking, between two large members of the A Team.
“Okay, son,” said Will in a soft but commanding voice, “I want you to turn off the power, now.”
“Well, uh, sir, I, uh, that takes some time to do safely, and, uh, I need some help from my people you’ve locked up.”
“Take your time, but don’t screw with me. Find the people you need and get the job done. By the way, the system is going to be interrupted by other means soon enough anyway, so let me know if there technical issues we need to deal with here.” The supervisor licked his lips, glanced around, then stammered, “No, sir, I, uh, a couple of hours, uh, we can do that, it uh, yeah, we can do that.”
So this is where the point about wiring the control room for demolitions becomes important. If there’s detonators wired into that system, then having a bunch of untrained civilians fiddling around is incredibly dangerous. Like, before you can even touch a detonator, you have to reach down and physically touch the earth with your bare hands, to discharge any static electric charge that may have build up in your clothes. Just shuffling your feet while handling a detonator can set it off and cost you a finger. And if that detonator is taped into an explosive train…
What I’m saying is, if you’re going to let a bunch of untrained civilians poke around in the control room you just wrapped with explosives, install the detonators afterwards. Ever.
So I mentioned how Bob Ignace had the potential to be a proper adversary for Will Boucanier? At least on a meta-level, there was the implication that he was raising the alarm with the government and getting ignored by the navel-gazers at the ITAC. Well, here’s the last we’re going to hear about him in this novel.
[As Ignace is brought to the Dam’s Admin building] “I knew you were a terrorist, Boucanier!” shouted Ignace as he was led into the generating station office locked in his own handcuffs.
Will looked at him quietly for a moment. “Well then, Bob, you should have done something about it. Right? Now we’re going to detain you, and unless the army goes crazy when they get here, you and the others should be okay. Behave, and when this is over I’ll recommend you for a medal.”
“Yeah, well, the army will be here soon enough, you bastard. You can count on that.”
“You’re probably right on that too, Bob.”
Will turned to the guards. “Lock him in the supervisor’s office. Take off the handcuffs and give him a ration pack.”
His men led the unhappy police officer into the office, unlocked the cuffs, and, on their way out, threw a military meal pack carelessly at his feet. Ignace kicked angrily at it. Will chuckled. “Don’t blame you, Bob. Kinda nasty, that army stuff…until you’re hungry, that is.” He nodded, and his men closed and locked the door.
While this is (just about) the final word we’re going to have on Bob Ignace, it’s also kind of the final word on all the ‘little people’ in this story. Bob Ignace was a repulsive, self-hating caricature, but he at least had something approaching a three dimensional character. He could have been a believable rival for the Movement, a representation of an alternate view point, albeit one born of anger, self-loathing and racism.
Just like the guards manning the front door at the generating station, just like the warriors patrolling the streets, just like the supervisor trying to shut down power for Eastern Canada while trying to avoid touching the coils of Det Cord wrapped around the equipment. There’s a few people in this story matter, and the rest of us can pound salt. Gen Bishop could have called up Radisson and warned them about the threat, and the Warriors would have had to at least confront a locked door or two before entering the building.
But the little people don’t matter. Gen Bishop and his problems are important, Will Boucanier and his problems matter. The nameless security guard and supervisor? Not so much.
“Well, then, get to it,” said Will. He gestured toward the tourist area where the staff were held prisoner. The supervisor nodded and walked down that corridor followed by his escorts while Will reached for the radio and called each sabotage team leader in turn. The message was brief. “Bring down the first sets of wires and towers and report when the job is done.”
Take down the wires after the Dam’s been seized and the power’s turned off. Because that makes sense. _sigh_
 Hell, we even know that, of the three platoon commanders under Will’s command, one of them is a woman. Diversity!
 In some cases it’s hard to tell that it’s burning at all, since there isn’t always a lot of smoke. You have to look closely to see the plastic coating distort from the heat. Making sure that the fuse is burning properly is a crucial duty of the soldier triggering it. Once you’re sure it’s burning, you’re supposed to loudly yell “I see smoke!” then walk (don’t run!) to safety.
 One of the best versions of this tactic I’ve personally seen was a guy who used a scavenged refrigerator box as a kind of surfboard. Under cover of smoke and machine gun fire, he ran up to the fence and belly flopped onto it using the multiple layers of cardboard to protect himself from the barbs. His body weight crushed the concertina flat, creating an almost two meter gap in the obstacle.
 Historically, the Mohawks were once one of the member nations of the Six Nations Confederacy back when it was the Iroquois Confederacy, but time and geography split them into separate entities.
 In a really grim novel, I would expect him to lead his loyal warriors in a coup to depose the Cree Regional Authority to prevent the Northern Cree from breaking away from the Movement. Basically, the story would end with the revolution eating its own, and metastasizing into something even more brutal. But what do I know?