Stark moonlight, filtered through the void shields and reflecting off the uncounted windows of the Hive cast harsh shadows against the towering hab-blocks on either side of the processional way. Workers and their families lay in blackness, either sleeping or pretending to. No lights were kindled – none of them wanted to draw any attention to themselves.
Slowly, clanking and shuffling, the group made its way down the processional. Coals fell from the brazier mounted on top of a terrible machine and left ash and embers on the ancient floor. Come day-shift apothecaries would collect the leftovers and sell them as a pain relief poultice. Smoke and incense wound their way into the cold night, glimmering from the light of candles and glowing coals. He had been free of taint, both mentally and physically, but had not the stamina for vindication. What was left of him hung from the same banner that proclaimed his innocence.
A juve, peering through his hands saw them pass by his window. At the head was the Absolver, chanting the doleful litany of the Prayer for Suffering Souls. A servo-skull buzzed behind him, its internal grav-lift unit almost overloaded with the tools of its ministrations. Three shuffling acolytes surrounded the dread machine, a walking altar of confession. Their augmetic limbs jerked and sparked spastically. One of them seemed to catch his eye and the boy flung himself back into the welcoming shadows of his room, hyperventilating and making the sign of the Aquila with his hands.
At length, the dim glow receded along with the noise and the boy dared to look again. The street was empty save for ashes and blood.
Absolver Donatien de Rais
The Altar of Confession
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