After a backbreaking day of hard work, harsh threats and cheap food Mac, Gilly and the rest of the Rippers settled down for the night in their corner of the courtyard. Bathed in the orange light of the flames and buried in soot, the two men sat beside each other.

‘Genius, absolute genius!’ whispered Gilly to Mac. ‘The Pilers pull the books from the lorries. The Rippers tear them to pieces and the Burners put them on the bonfires.’

Gilly was one of the world’s leading authorities on feudal labour management. He winced as he tried to get comfortable on the hard ground. ‘This is the truly the end, my dear friend. We cannot get back from here.’

Mac agreed. ‘Culture is always the first victim of despotism,’ he said and then swilled a mouthful of pink lemonade around his mouth.

‘Our time has already been,’ Mac continued, ‘but if we carry on this way then the world will one day simply refuse to spin and hang limp in the eternal darkness like all the other dead stars.’

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