19
$\begingroup$

In my story, there are a large group of technologically backwards Earthmen who wish to remove a futuristic Martian arcology from their ancestral land. The Earthmen do not have any 20th or 21st century technology, and using fossil fuels is strictly forbidden. The large gap in technology levels means that they would likely lose any war or battle without the element of surprise, so they would like the Martians to not realise what they're doing until it's too late to stop it. As long as the Martians don't see a glaringly obvious threat, the Earthmen are able to take decades or even a century to prepare if necessary.

How should these Earthmen go about knocking down that huge futuristic building? Could it be done with only very primitive technology, or would steel tools or an engine or two really help? Is there some chemical or technological wonder they need to steal from the Martians first?

To get you started, here's an incomplete list of things I imagine approximately bronze age people could weaponise:

  • Fire
  • Steam
  • Undermining and somehow interfering with the foundations
  • Undermining and somehow causing a landslide or sinkhole
  • Battering ram seige engine
  • Cultivating the forest near the arcology to become more or less flammable is a possibility, but not right up against the walls of the arcology as the area close around it is at least somewhat controlled by the Martians
  • Diverted river
  • Sabotaging some kind of factory inside the arcology (many things are manufactured in there)

Edited to add further info: The design of the arcology is negotiable for story convenience; this story isn't finished and it isn't a sequel. But if you have no particular requirements to make your answer work, imagine this: The arcology is a huge cube. Skyscraper tall. Lower floor walls could be reinforced concrete. Upper floor outer walls are not tough, could be glass. Load bearing structures could be made from exotic engineered materials like nanotubes or high tech composites or whatever, engineered to optimise vertical weight bearing specifically and might not be as resistant to attacks from the side as reinforced concrete.

You absolutely cannot climb up the side without being spotted.

Earthmen can go inside, but they'll be chased out if they're found being naughty. They are not in a state of war before the arcology is attacked.

The Martians have nothing as magical as anti-gravity. They're not actually very far advanced past real world 21st century Earth technology. Their spaceships are just normal rockets. They like to put a whole city in one big building instead of lots of little ones, that's the arcology (I realise that it makes little sense to build like that in real life, but man it would look cool).

Yes, filling it with poison gas or bees would be sufficient. Making one side of the structure collapse would be OK if that's the best we can do.

Like the Psychlos in Battlefield Earth, these Martians are arrogant bastards and may overlook the Earthmen's schemes if it's not obvious what's happening, because they have a comically low opinion of the Earthmen's intelligence.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Futuristc martian arcology = modern building? Depends how it's made. I would go with freeze/thaw cycles and corrosion. $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Aug 24 at 14:51
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ do they control land around martian arcology? For example, would martians allow them to build a big dam near them? $\endgroup$ – Kepotx Aug 24 at 14:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @DavidHambling that 2nd question was brilliant. Is the goal met if you fill the building with poison gas or bees? Are the beastly Earthmen assaying a full-scale war, or are they more akin to environmental activists? $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 24 at 17:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The recent question worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/183893/… seems very relevant, does that answer what you need? $\endgroup$ – Peteris Aug 24 at 23:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I hope that you realize that steel is definitely in 19th century technology. They are by no means still in the bronze age. $\endgroup$ – NomadMaker Aug 25 at 21:10

19 Answers 19

34
$\begingroup$

Undermining.

There are significant examples of modern day structures being affected by nearby underground works, such as tunnels and/or hydraulic works. This occurs even in modern day skyscrapers, which are a major source of liability concerns for all involved.

All buildings rest on foundations, which in turn rest on the ground. No matter how much redundancy is built in to its structure, the foundations are a building's 'weakest' link.

It is said it is possible to place a bad building on a solid foundation and it still may be a good building, but a good building on a bad foundation cannot ever be good. Much structural work and calculations must be based on how heavy the loads are, and how deep foundations are and what soil type it is.

Plus tunnel-making is easy enough (depending on the soil type) for your level of proposed technology.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ In a medieval siege, they would dig tunnels under the walls of a castle, support the structure of the tunnel with wooden beams, undermine the structure, then fill the entire cavity with flammable materials and set the thing ablaze. When the beams burned through, the support would fail and the structure collapse. Otherwise, you could use tunnels as an invasion route, with close combat and numbers compensating for advanced alien weapons. In your own home, on a random Tuesday, you aren't armed and equipped for a pitched battle. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunnel_warfare $\endgroup$ – DWKraus Aug 24 at 15:31
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @DWKraus Besiegers had the luxury of not having to hide what they were doing (for the most part), because the besieged already knew they were up to something and couldn't usually do much to stop them. If the only advantage they have over the Martians is surprise, how do you tunnel in from far enough away while also disposing of the thousands of cubic meters of removed material? Some large skyscrapers already monitor seismology, I doubt that this could be successful. $\endgroup$ – John O Aug 24 at 16:27
  • 20
    $\begingroup$ My assumption from the question is HOW they could do it. Not how likely to succeed. Your Martians could be lazy, overconfident SOB's who don't give a darn about the scrawny little natives plinking away in the dirt, and assume they are not a threat. Maybe the humans are slave labor. Since we are given years or decades to achieve the effect, we have plenty of time. "Hey, Zeg, what's this weird noise on the seismograph?" "Just local animals digging in the dirt. It's been like that for the last thirty years. Ignore it." $\endgroup$ – DWKraus Aug 24 at 16:48
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ I've had some rabbits digging up my backyard for the past few months. I know they are there, I know they are digging, and not once have I been worried that they will undermine my house causing it to collapse followed by an organized offensive to murder us before we have time to arm ourselves... so the question is, are the aliens being reasonably complacent for ignoring the humans, or am I ignoring a very real threat to the safety of my home and family... $\endgroup$ – Nosajimiki Aug 25 at 14:00
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @vsz While true, countermining is a rather risky and unreliable endeavor, because you both have to figure out where the other guys are actually undermining your walls, and you have to make sure you don't undermine your own structures while you're doing this (and of course, you're realistically limited by the local water table too, if they're tunneling just above that you can't do much to stop them). You also need more people than the enemy to do it effectively (because you have to work faster than they do). $\endgroup$ – Austin Hemmelgarn Aug 26 at 16:57
16
$\begingroup$

The best approach is probably political. Start a campaign to have the building removed on ecological/cultural/legal/religious/historic grounds and get the Martians to buy into it. Over the course of decades or centuries, by leveraging natural political divisions in the Martian polity they should be able to generate a faction opposed to the building and sympathetic to removing it.

Much depends on the Martian legal system and and legal and political basis for the structure being there and who owns the rights.

Trying to physically attack is looks dumb. Undermining the basis of its existence would be smarter.

A more radical approach would be buying out the owners, or creating an economic situation so that the factory was redundant.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I like this one. The building can be moved to a different site in a feat of technological prowess. The humans need to ask and persist. The Martians can feel benevolent. Then you can have a transport ship crash land from orbit on the site where the old building was, 3 months after it was moved. It leaves a huge crater. Neither humans nor Martians are sure what to think about that. $\endgroup$ – Willk Aug 25 at 17:46
11
$\begingroup$

Communicating vessels and Pascal's barrel

Pascal's barrel

If two volumes are linked by a closed pipe filled with fluid, they behave like one from a pressure point of view. See the Wikipedia page for the principle.

Also, the pressure against the bottom of the wall solely depends on the height of the fluid column. So you can build pressure inside the target volume if you connect it to a source high enough. You can even break things like in the Pascal's barrel experiment. See this video for a better illustration and explanation than I could ever provide.

For this to work, it would be nice that the first few lower levels of the building have no window, door, or anything like that. Also, the building stands thanks to its walls, not a central pillar.

So, considering that, you could dig a tunnel under a lake above the building (500m above the building's ground should be more than enough), ending below the building. Then, dig upward to connect the tunnel to the basement of the building.

Then, connect the tunnel to the lake.

The lake will fill the tunnel, then the basement, and fill the first levels. While the level is rising, so does the pressure against the walls. When it is more than what the wall can handle, it will crack and a whole side of the building will collapse.

For this to work, the pressure must be enough to crack the wall before the water reach the first door/window (at that point, the water will crack only this open, the water will escape this way, and the pressure will stop to rise).

The pressure will increase by 1 bar (= 1 atm) every 10m. So the maximum pressure will be determined by the height of the first windows or non-structural weak point. Basically, it is critical that the first thing to break is a structural part because the pressure will quickly drop after the first crack.

"Best" design: a tower, standing thanks to its walls made in a homogenous material (rather than steel pillars wrapped in comparatively weak materials), with no weak points up to a few tens of meters. (Reinforced) concrete is good because it tolerates compression really well (that why it can withstand the weight of tall buildings), but is very vulnerable to side pressure and elongation.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
5
$\begingroup$

Nothing short of demolitions would suffice. This means either thermite or high explosives. Reinforced concrete and steel are strong (and that's assuming the Martians have nothing stronger still). Fire alone won't suffice (the WTC had 2000deg burning jet fuel dripping down the columns, plus the major structural damage of a jetliner hitting it).

Diverting a river might be clever... but are they willing to wait years/decades? Because the building won't fall over 6 hours later once the water is flowing through the lobby.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Charcoal fires can weaken steel enough to make it not do it's job of supporting a structure. (Note, though, that the real killer of the WTC was simple thermal expansion, no weakening of the metal was needed to bring it down.) $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Aug 25 at 2:50
  • $\begingroup$ @LorenPechtel It's difficult to have the "element of surprise" with charcoal fires that have to be built up over hours upon hours and let burn for 24-72 hours, not to mention the guys who have to go in with sledge hammers for 2 weeks to remove enough of the interior just so the fires can be built. If they have any amount of time to do things out in the open, they could just send people in with hammers and chisels for a few decades. $\endgroup$ – John O Aug 25 at 13:41
  • $\begingroup$ The issue was undermining. Expose the support columns, heat them enough they buckle. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Aug 25 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ @LorenPechtel So, they just have to tunnel in from 200 miles away, 1 mile deep or more, do it without any evidence that there's a gigantic tunneling project, and then use their stone age technology to build gigantic charcoal fires underneath the building, all without setting off any alarms or sensors for a science fiction arcology which probably has more sensors than the starship Enterprise? And quickly too, so there's an "element of surprise"? $\endgroup$ – John O Aug 25 at 18:18
  • $\begingroup$ Depends on how good the detection of diggers is. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Aug 26 at 1:40
5
$\begingroup$

Modern buildings rely on multiple systems, most notably HVAC and water, which is required for sanitation but also for fire suppression. It is unlikely that your building has these systems fully contained within it. It probably has pipes delivering electricity, water, and perhaps natural gas. Disrupt these and the building quickly becomes uninhabitable. Without water for the sprinkler system, it will go up in flames quickly. Even if the building has generators and water storage on site, it still needs regular deliveries of water and fuel. Disrupt these.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ I imagine a futuristic arcology of this sort might have some sort of water treatment system built in. From the question it seems it's mostly self-contained. I'd also think solar/wind would be used for the energy source rather than external electricity or gas. $\endgroup$ – Redwolf Programs Aug 27 at 1:10
3
$\begingroup$

Ground Conditions

With 100 years to do it in, it's not that hard (from an engineering standpoint that is). While a building like a modern day skyscraper is very resilient to damage on a short term level, without proper maintenance small problems can become big ones. The best way to do it would be to drastically change the ground chemistry in the building's foundation-first tunnel to the bottom (or close to the bottom) of the foundation, and introduce a water source, which will lead to significant erosion overtime. In 10 years, it's not likely to take it down, in 100 years, you will have major structural damage that is likely to doom the building or at least make it massively expensive to repair.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The bottom of a skyscraper foundation are the pylons built to bedrock.... $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 24 at 16:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JBH That is true...but 100 years of soil erosion and water damage will cause them to crack and cause even bedrock to settle. $\endgroup$ – Jackson Dunn Aug 24 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ Not really. If a building didn't collapse under its own weight in that much time, it's unlikely that primitives digging with shovels and picks could do anything. $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 24 at 19:53
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH From the article: "In fact the real perils are as pedestrian as it gets. “It’s mainly about keeping the water out,” says Baker. … But in areas of high rainfall, mild acids in the water will slowly react with the limestone in cement and wear it away – turning steel to rust and riddling the building with holes." $\endgroup$ – Michael Aug 25 at 20:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Michael But the article doesn't say how long. As AlexP points out in an answer to another question we still have concrete buildings in daily use after 2,000 years. Read further into the article and you'll find (if I remember correctly) they contradict that statement. Waiting for water to destroy reinforced concrete would be an act of patience measured in millennia. After all, we use the substance to make dams. $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 25 at 20:07
3
$\begingroup$

Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot of 1605

So most people are familiar with Guy Fawkes Masks, most notable from the movie V for Vendetta.

enter image description here

What most people don't realize is that Guy Fawkes was a very real person involved in a legitimate conspiracy to overthrow the British government.

The simple summary is that Fawkes and friends rented out an undercroft (cellar/storage room) that happened to be directly underneath the House of Lords of the British Parliament. They proceeded to fill the it to the brim with gunpowder over time. The plan was obviously to set off the gunpowder while Parliament was in session to the affect of crippling the British government and ideally setting off a successful Catholic rebellion against the Protestant Crown.

They almost succeeded except one of the conspirators slipped a note to a friend in Parliament to not go to work that day, despite being expressly told not to. On the 5th of November (queue the poem from the movie) guards were sent to investigate, and who do they find guarding the gunpowder, none other than Guy Fawkes.

The point of the history lesson?

Find a little room, patiently fill it with explosives over time, and keep your mouth shut!

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Use biological weapons. Surreptitiously cause some nasty local fauna or flora outbreak in the building, in air ducts, or water, or waste treatment system. Or something like - there is a story about a woman that had to move out of house after bitter divorce. She has put cooked shrimps into curtain rods. Some time later the stench has became unbearable and the source could not be found. Her ex had to move out and she even could buy the house at a discount.

I'm not saying anything about actually fully removing the building, but that's going to solve itself - most modern buildings won't last standing hundred years without maintenance anyway.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Modern building are designed to house stuff - residential or business areas, not to be impregnable fortresses. Since building in your story is not military base or any other kind of explicitly reinforced building, pretty much any kind of 19th century mass-destruction technology will work. Any kind of big enough steam or dynamite explosion directed at structural weak point, or - even better - at several weak points at once on bottom floors - load bearing walls or pillars and such, will cause the rest of floors to collapse.

If you want a reason for your building to be more fragile, mention it is built in seismically inactive area with temperate climate - so it wasn't built with any additional reinforcement due to hostile elements.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Technology is Inherently Hazardous

The more we try to make modern homes great places to live, the more we bring in potentially dangerous substances. Want to cook? pipe in some natural gas. Want lighting, pipe in some high voltage AC current. Want to stay cool in Summer? fill some pipes up with freon gas. Don't want to have to plug into the wall to use phone or internet, fill your home with wifi relays. Want to kill some bugs? bring in pesticides.

Because the aliens live in an archaeology, they don't just bring in all the normal household hazards either, but they bring in all the hazards of their entire civilization. Nuclear power plants, explosive chemical factories, and the like. So if something like the recent Beirut explosion looks like this https://youtu.be/n-3GJwy6EI4 in an open city floor plan, imagine how much worse it would be if this were just one of many industrial complexes packed together buried deep inside of an archaeology.

enter image description here

The thing about primiative humans is that they were just as good at learning as modern human, they just did not have as much material to study. While most humans would not understand the alien tech at all, you'd still have your occasional Copernicus or DaVinci level human who might observe the aliens with enough insight to figure out how things correlate, even if they don't understand the full science behind them. Through empirical evidence and a few burned eyebrows they might learn that one symbol warns of fire hazards, another of electrical hazards, and so on. So, eventually, they might be able to figure out that that room containing 50 giant tanks marked with flammable and explosive warnings would be a good target; so, instead of relying on primitive human fire making abilities of their own, they could use the much more advanced hazards that the aliens put in there for them.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Use what is happening now

For years nature destroys human constructions without human help. For me the best way to do it is simply for the Earthmen to raise a forest for years, make a huge trench like 6 km around it, and once the summer is hot enough, start a fire. Far enough it could be too late when the Martians see it, from many sides the fire is not controllable and the trench preserves the rest of the land.

Politically speaking, it could be a great point for the Earthmen to explain to the Martians that the trench is to give them a place for them, a place where no Earthmen live but they do cultivate and may share with Martians. You can use many chapters on the fake relationship the Earthmen build, arrogant Martians will appreciate dominate while humans can prepare the whole thing.

Another point is that humans can easily spy on Martians' tech to try to understand it d reach a similar technological level in the near future. If the plan succeeds, the evolution of those people may be a good sequel.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Depending on the size of the arcology and the surrounding landscape, creating a cave-in/artificial sinkhole may be possible. But it would be very difficult.

It probably would take some generations with only bronze tools, but the best bet would be to properly undermine the area, multiple levels deep, while keeping everything propped up with massive numbers of wooden supports. The trees for support would have to be cut far away and the rock removed would also have to be dumped far enough away that no one becomes suspicious.

If the humans know how to make black powder (possible, there are some historians that argue the chinese had fireworks before they started making steel) then have them slowly fill the underground spaces with barrels of the stuff. Otherwise, build an underground channel and dam system where the dam walls are easy to drop. Last possibility, which will only work if they can ventilate at a distance using bellows is to bring in large amounts of very dry firewood to burn out the supports. This is iffy, though, as timing would be a problem and the smoke would likely be noticed.

On the appointed day, or more likely night, chosen to catch all the martians - or as many as possible - inside, blow all the supports using black powder or wash them out using your channelled water and watch the arcology disappear in the sinkhole.

Have all your best warriors on hand to kill the survivors as they flee/crawl away, otherwise they'll just call for help and rebuild. Also, if there is more than one settlement, you have to coordinate and wipe them all out on the same day.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ North of my birth city is an old concrete structure used for decades as a spray paint monument. County government tried to bring it down with explosives - they couldn't even dent it. Worse, modern skyscrapers have foundation pylons sunk all the way to bedrock (can be VERY deep). This answer doesn't seem to take modern building techniques into account. $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 24 at 16:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There's a Mythbuster episode where they try to show if a prisoner could use salsa over decades to eat at iron bars in a window of a Mexican jail. They found it plausible, but a little obvious. Locals applying acidic paste could POSSIBLY degrade the structure of underground supports, depending on the materials. Slow going, though. Salt might also help. Weaken them enough to allow other methods to succeed. $\endgroup$ – DWKraus Aug 24 at 16:56
  • $\begingroup$ @DWKraus If they dug out enough space under the building, water (the universal solvent) would eventually do what needs to be done... but you're not talking a century anymore. More like 500-1000 years. The ground under those buildings (especially on coastlines) isn't that dry. $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 24 at 19:57
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH - Exactly. Nothing on the surface is going to work with the stipulated technology level, and undermining would, again, as I said, be a few generations worth of effort. As any old miner can tell you, rock is bloody difficult to break. With only bronze tools, ground water, wood or coal/peat fires and maybe black powder, they would be drilling, digging, freeze/heat cracking, blasting, etc. for centuries. Not that they could do much blasting without attracting attention anyway. $\endgroup$ – Gwyn Sep 8 at 23:43
1
$\begingroup$

In history and stories like this I find the most impressive way to attack and destroy a target is by using its structure or internal processes to bring about its own demise. Especially when the oppressed people are at a significant technological disadvantage it is more likely to be ignorance on one or both sides or something along the lines of sheer dumb luck that allows the oppressed to prevail.

Side note - I'm a huge fan of archologies and destruction of things on that scale, ever since reading about the destruction of Prince Xizors Palace on Coruscant in Shadows of the Empire when I was a kid, the magnitude of the waste, the loss, the grandeur... and how the initiating act was deliberate, but perhaps the overall result, the consequences were unexpected or at least not thoroughly reasoned out...

This is similar to David Hambling's political response but instead of inspiring the Martians to conspire against themselves, we want to turn their technology and internal processes against the building. Then it becomes a question of what event initiated by the Bronze aged Earthmen was the trigger or catalyst to the ultimate destruction.

You have already identified that Earthmen can enter the building, and your wording suggests that this might not just be tolerated, but commonplace. Let's use that first, perhaps the Martian visitors enslaved the local population either to do menial personal tasks or general labor and maintenance on the structure itself, perhaps even to build it.

Just focusing on the slave construction or maintenance gives me some good themes to work with:

  1. The Earthmen unintentionally created a weakness or bias in the structure due to their incompetence or due to inferior or impure local materials that may have been used entirely or mixed with exotics. In this way because everyone was doing what they thought was right, it would be hard to identify and prevent specific circumstances that could later be exploited.

    • IMO this is the easy plot line to exploit because you can identify your main attack first and come back and create weaknesses as you need them, the source of the weakness doesn't need to be intentional or even detectable at the time. Even if the final attack shouldn't have succeeded, these weaknesses could have contributed to a catastrophic chain of events, in the end Earth itself could have prevailed.
  2. The arrogant masters who think their idea is so good and that thier instruction and supervision is also so good could easily miss important issues, or may not have designed important failsafes to account for human error. Perhaps their culture involves a level of obedience and they just thought we would follow the rules

    reference to being kicked out for being naughty points to this, perhaps earthmen are kicked out in these circumstances not as punishment, but because they have insulted their benevolent masters and their behavior has disgusted them on a level that they simply cannot tolerate their presence. They may not have laws for these sorts of insults, because they are unimaginable to the Martians.

    This means that as long as the Earthmen appear to be doing the right thing, mischievous and naughty activities could ensue. At the time, out of laziness or sheer non-compliance, certain key construction or maintenance elements may not be implemented correctly.

    Add in a sub-plot of some kind of mind, chemical or physical control / restraints, it's easy to write in a developed resistance or immunity where captives behave as if still under the influence,

    • See the notes on the first point about later exploiting this... At the time the consipartors may not have known how their acts would ultimatly contribute to the destruction of the building, their act at the time may even be detected, they were only trying to rebel in their way. Even if deliberate sabbotage was detected and fixed, the fix itself can be exploited later.
  3. Either on its own, or in conjunction with the themes above, Earthmen outside of the arcology have gained knowledge about the structure and even the technologies, even if they refuse to use them, or cannot replicate them. Combine this with the naughty individuals that have been ejected there is a wealth of anecdotal knowledge that builds up over time.

    Stories around the campfire, passed down through generations, stories of mischievous or even heroic acts of the slaves inspire our protagonist who puts together some at first isolated theories and by chance encounters with others they put together a coordinated plan of attack... Even if this plan should have been doomed to failure, you just need to highlight convenient past events that were either forgotten, misinterpreted or simply unnoticed that enabled the destruction to succeed.

All of the above can help establish why Earthmen might have intimate knowledge about the structure that was not traditionally available to Bronze Age humans, regardless of how they come by the knowledge, exploiting it needs only be trial and error over an extended period of time.

I like the comment from @DWKraus "Just local animals digging in the dirt"... Over time the repeated attacks/attempts from the Earthmen could become comical, even to the point of the Martians treating it as sport, betting on how long untile the next attack, how long an attack might last, or what they would try next. Perhaps some higer-ups even getting "involved" by sponsoring some Earthling factions, for their own internal political gain or amusement...

Taking inspiration from the other posts so far, we have identified that fire is not only accessible and one of most obvious weapon to use, but that the native population in early feeble attempts may have already tried fire in a number of different ways. Due to these attempts the structure must have built in defenses against this, more than would be required to protect against spontaneous or accidental combustion.

Water was another popular weapon and is commonly used to protect against fire attacks. If there are consistent or frequent attacks over the years, water would most likely be implemented over other chemical or exotic retardants due to its abundance and because, well "they are only humans" so we don't really need to overthink it.

So, drawing things out to a logical conclusion that might be accessible to a Bronze aged human, find a way to use the fire suppressant system against the structure itself.

  1. It could be a carrier for chemicals, acids or poisons. On their own it might not be a big deal, but when the water is used against the fire the resulting steam combines with the smoke and could either be immediately toxic or cause damage to inhabitants over time or the residues contribute to structural weakening.

    • This doesn't even need to be a deliberate exploit, maybe they used sea water all along and over time their refuse had polluted the water source. The salt and other pollutants aide in the corrosion of the lower structures or introduced exotic spores which grow over time or induced some form of calcification to structural components.
    • It could be a deliberate act like in Contantine (2005) after Chaz Kramer turned the fire sprinkler system into holy water... It didn't take out the demons, but sufficiently compromised them so that Constine could take them out...
  2. Repeated and persistent attacks from the stubborn Earthmen mean that the fire suppressant/retardant system has been overused to a point they had not originally considered, so this itself could be an exploit

  3. Either in relation to the fires, or from diverting dams or whatever, If the Earthmen succeed in causing lower or basement levels to flood and stay permanently flooded, perhaps as the ultimate deterrent they deliberately flood these levels... Then later these levels are drained, after significant time under water, especially water with contaminents and polutants means the structural integrity is now compromised.

    • Maybe Martians do not have any regard or need for water, and to deliberately impoverish the native community they deliberately store the water within the structure, the very "smart" design of this arcology depends on the pressure exerted by the retained water, or it is uses it as balast or counter weight some way, maybe its a giant shock absorber (which explains why our real world engineering concepts cannot build structures of these sorts of sizes).
    • Whatever your reason, the structure now needs the water, perhaps the original designers have moved on and the knowledge about the why and how are lost, so no one cares or notices when the Earthmen find a way to access this water, to literally tap into it, maybe they've been surviving off cracks in this system over years. Finally our protagonist plans to deliberately drain this water, to get back what was rightfully theirs, unbeknownst to them the whole thing comes crashing down.

Just some non-technical ideas to consider...

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Basically 9/11 scenario. If their technology is like ours then this very large building has steel frame.

Put lots of firewood on the first floor and light a fire. When temperature reaches 500-600 C steel strength would drop and building would collapse.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ "Earthmen can go inside, but they'll be chased out if they're found being naughty." - probably there's not enough time to build a huge pile of wood $\endgroup$ – Thomas Weller Aug 25 at 8:48
0
$\begingroup$

Divert an underground aquifer under or near the building to cause erosion leading to a sinkhole forming under the building. Handwave how you divert an aquifer. Presumably there's room in the aquifer for an breathable passage and the ability to insert materials to dam/redirect the flow to cause the erosion.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

The steel frame is going to be tricky to demolish, but can be done given enough time. The first step, though, is getting rid of the rest of the building.

Bronze age technology is sufficient to build something like a trebuchet. These types of siege engines could knock down castle walls that were solid stone. For a modern building with exteriors of glass and walls framed with wood, a trebuchet would absolutely wreck them.

No matter how modern our buildings get, fire is always a vulnerability. Fire suppression systems are designed to knock out fires while they're still small. Get a large-enough fire going and they won't be able to put it out.

Never underestimate what you can accomplish with raw manpower. A technological disadvantage can be overcome by sheer numbers. Grunt-rush the building with enough people to outnumber the enemy at least 5 to 1. Subdue and forcibly evict the occupants, then start demolition. A large portion of modern demolition work is done using basic demolition tools like sledgehammers and demo bars that are low-tech and easily built (even mining tools would work). Power tools make things faster, but they aren't strictly necessary. Start at the top, work your way down, and tear the whole building apart. Just like ants, your army of primitive workers will strip the building down to the bones and haul it away a lot faster than you might think.

If you don't think your primitive army can forcibly capture the building, lay siege to it instead. Block all exits with large stones and wait for the occupants to starve. Pummel them from a distance with catapults and other long-range siege weapons. Once the occupants are all dead, continue with the demolition.

Once you're down to the steel structure, you can let nature do the hard work. Use rough stones or sandpaper to grind any protective layers off of the steel. Apply regular coats of an oxidizing agent to speed up the process of rusting. Sulfuric acid is a fairly potent oxidizer and was extracted and studied at least as far back as the first century AD. Once the structural pieces at ground level are sufficiently rusted, the rest of the structure should collapse and can be hauled off.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

I was thinking of microbial corrosion, assuming a large steel structure as the foundation of the building.

Usually we think of water to corrode steel and turn it into rust. This might be a slow process and easily be detected. Also, the structure might be protected from rusting by paint and glass.

Microbes however, might only need a small defect in the paint to start the process. With a bit of exponential growth, the process could become unstoppable before it is detected. And the Martians might not know the species yet and thus not have a good countermeasure. Fire will always work, but is probably not a good idea to apply everywhere.

The Earthmen could detect this sort of bacteria even if they don't use metal themselves. They just need a thrown-away piece of metal to detect the microbe activity. They could cultivate the bacteria with something else (like Agar or whatever all bacteria like) and then seed it in a few places around the building or even distribute via a ventilation system. They don't even need to know something about math and exponential growth. They just observe the metal vanish away and give it a try.

Depending on what you want to achieve by "remove", there's a lot of work to do after the collapse of the building. The easiest is probably to put earth on top of the pile of rubbish, so it will be the ancestral hill of victory for the Earthmen.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Could be a fun parallel/callback/tribute to the whole "Killed by earth germs" ending of War of the Worlds $\endgroup$ – Ruadhan Aug 26 at 8:20
0
$\begingroup$

If the city is by a body of water, they can dig a canal to flood the building and damage the soil. Assuming that the amount of water is great enough and the building is on a hill, a landslide could result and the building would collapse.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Set up an unexpected resonate frequency and have building shake itself apart. Buildings are designed with various damping systems but they are never perfect.

To set this up it could be planting trees in a way to redirect prevailing winds, physicaly plant resonators in key places, or remove things that look harmless but really dampen vibration. Or large group doing ritual song and dance in the building or

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.