Another Brick Falls II

The horsemen had swept into the town at dawn. The Khan's orders had been to level it until a rider could traverse it at night at full gallop and not stumble.

By sunset the Khan looked out with approval. The only thing left above the steppe was a sturdier building where one of the golden-hairs had been living. It was made out of blocks of hardened clay, instead of the dried mud and thatch of the other dwellings.

He rode over to the building. He spent a few minutes surveying the pile of the golden-hairs' possessions. Most of them looked like nothing more than bizarre trinkets, not even of precious metal. One of them had an arrow which always pointed the same direction. The Khan tucked that one into his belt.

The warriors destroying the building were making little progress with their cudgels. One of them had a mallet, and was doing a bit better. The Khan wondered uneasily if all the golden-hairs dwelt in such solid houses. Better to gain practice destroying them now. He sent off a few of the warriors to try some different methods.

Several bricks lay on the ground beside the Khan's horse. They were mostly made of dried mud, which in turn was mostly granular silicate and organic debris, with a mixture of iron ore. Some plant fibers had been mixed in to give them strength. The molecules were vibrating in a frequency consistent with their temperature, in random directions and certainly not in phase. The total energy of this oscillation, if it were ever to be aligned and directed upwards, would send the brick high into the air. But the chance of that was miniscule.

It wasn't zero, though.

As the Khan started to dismount, the molecules in one brick, jostled inexplicably by the stepping of the horses, the pounding on the house, and the Khan's weight on the ground, snapped into phase and alignment for a brief minute.

The brick didn't quite shoot straight upwards. It didn't quite get as high as it could have, either, because it met the back of the Khan's head en route and lodged there.

None of the warriors saw the brick shoot up. They saw the Khan crumple to the ground, they found the brick in the back of his head, and they summarily killed a warrior who happened to have been in about the right position to throw it.

Then they rode back to their homeland to select a new Khan. They campaigned again the next year, but the golden-hairs had had time to field an army against them. The great horde was decimated, never to terrorize the steppes again.

Eventually they learned how to build their houses with bricks. But by that time the golden-hairs had learned how to make them with steel.

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The Den of Ubiquity/ Aaron V. Humphrey /