Stepping out of his Administration Hut with his Temporary Administrator 3 in tow The Senior Administrator pulled his deep scarlet velvet robes tightly about him while doing his best to stop his brocade cornette flying off in the unseasonable breeze. Save the crunch of the gravel path under foot and the ringing of the small brass bells upon his long pointed silk carpet slippers The Senior Administrator walked through the busy village in silence.
The destination of the two Administrators was a series of long, low building down by the river with their tall, slightly comical, fat chimneys, once a noticeable feature of the village skyline their prominence now reduced to the point of being lost with the completion of the thirty-foot defensive wall.
The arrival of The Senior Administrator at the brick works did not go unnoticed as a short male, his face streaked with clay while his hands were covered in a much more pungent material, came out to meet him.
“Your name?” The Senior Administrator said upon seeing the Active present himself with an acceptable degree of supplication.
“Baker sire, I am a master of my trade so the people hereabout call me Master Baker, the Brick Maker.”
“Baker? Do you do not make bread?”
“No sire, that’ll be Master Thatcher, the Bread Maker.”
“A thatcher that makes bread? Next you will be telling me the shepherd is called Master Miller!”
“No sire,” the brick maker paused, “the shepherd is called Master Cooper while Master Miller I believe is a wainwright.”
“Well Master Baker.” The Senior Administrator looked to his clipboard to focus his thoughts on the reason for his foray out of the comfortable Administration hut. “I note that the brick-works have provided three million bricks towards the construction of the new mile long defensive wall as well as the Holy Virgin Queen’s latest Palace.”
“The figure originally requested by the Engineers was two million, nine hundred and ninety-two thousand to be precise, when you include the rebuilding of the Palace, sire.”
“Yes, Her Majesty did not like the first one, so we had to pull it down” The Senior Administrator sighed, “I believe Her Highness found the towers a ‘bit too gothic’ for her liking yet I feel the replacement is a little to avant-garde for my tastes.”
“However,” the brick maker waited until the Senior Administrator had stopped talking before he continued, “the Engineers rounded their request up to three million bricks so as to make their accounting a great deal easier. I understand the extra bricks were used to construct a magnificent pen to house the Most Glorious Mistress Baas our Queen’s horde of hamsters.”
If the Senior Administrator had anything to say on this matter he kept it to himself and instead raised the matter that had brought him out of his warm hut.
“By my calculations the three million bricks should weigh close on seventy-five million pounds.” The Senior Administrator flicked through what appeared to be several long pages of hand-written calculations, the result, if rumour were to be believed, of The Senior Administrator disposing of his abacus in anger the previous week following a minor spelling mistake having been pointed out to him. “Yet the inventory shows only a half million pounds of clay and two and half million pounds of fodder being requested from the stores.”
“And…” The Senior Administrator spluttered at the reply, “there appears to be a shortfall of more than seventy-two million pounds?”
“Seventy-two million, three hundred thousand pound to be exact.” Regaining his composure The Senior Administrator spoke more calmly, reading the exact figure from his notes.
“That’ll be the binding agent.”
“What binding agent?”
“While the standard weight ratio of Clay to Fodder is 20:100 there is a need to add a binding agent, one that I may add has certain fire retardant properties, or else the brick may dry out or even burn during the baking process. The latter is due to the high percentage of Fodder.”
“And how much of this binding agent do you add?
“Well, to come up to the industry standard of the one hundred pound Stone that the Engineers are now demanding we have to add around twenty-four pounds per brick.”
“That means,” The Senior Administrator quickly scribbled some numbers down on his page, “that each brick is seventy percent binding agent?”
“Round about that.”
“And pray tell, what do you use?”
“Obviously a natural material, one that has been abundant since the village was founded, in fact we’d probably be ankle deep by now, had you not sold half the cattle herd at the last fair.”
“You should be well aware of the thirty page report within which the Administration Department detailed that it had performed an extensive herding feasibility study and carried a comprehensive consultation process on this subject. While simultaneously inviting all the relevant stakeholders to contribute with their opinions, on the matter of the number of Cattle the Tribe actually needed and…” The Senior Administrator dropped into his five-point prepared response to this annoyingly recurring question when a small detail suddenly occurred to him, “Hold on a minute! Are you saying you use cattle dung as a binding agent?”
“Only if we can’t get enough horse manure.”
“We brick makers prefer horse manure but the Tobacco farmers seem to have cornered the market ever since they were issued with shovels. We tried elephant dung back in the spring, after all there is plenty of that to go round, but it turns out it is too friable. The Engineers complain the bricks do not hold together when making their Norman arches and flying buttresses, while goat pellets were, to be honest, a non-starter.”
“Are you telling me that the Queens latest Palace is made of 96% cow dung?”
“No, no!” the brick maker laughed, “the Engineers use quarried stone wherever possible in the Holy Queen’s Palace.”
“That is a relief.”
“So its only 75% at most…”