The Engineer Reconditioned
money was good and must obviously be in proportion to the risk ... but some of the other toys the General had brought aboard bothered him. The tactical atomics weren't so bad. Kellor had used them himself on many occasions. But the CTDs were. Contra terrene devices were the kind of things to get you really noticed by Earth Central, and it was by not being overly noticeable to EC that Kellor was able to continue to operate. He really hoped the General had no intention of using them against a Polity world
    — that would really piss off some major minds, and a pissed-off AI was an enemy indeed.
    "You have some reservations," said Conard. A few paces behind him stood his two young aides, their expressions utterly devoid of emotion and in Kellor's opinion, intelligence.
    "I always have reservations when I don't know all the details," Kellor replied. The General stood with a swagger stick tucked under one arm and managed not to look ridiculous. His uniform was neat and spotless on a diminutive frame. His face wore a mildly thoughtful expression. But Kellor had begun to understand what went on behind that expression. General David Conard hated the Polity, and most especially its AIs, with fanatical intensity. He would die to bring it down. And he would kill anyone to bring it down. Kellor considered himself a better man. As far as he was concerned people could live how they liked. He only killed for money.
    "There is nothing much to add. You must first sever communications using those ... missiles." He said the last word with contempt. It was his disgust at the thought of using smart missiles that had made Kellor finally realise the depth of Conard's hatred of AIs. "And on our subsequent arrival in the system take out the Polity ship you'll find there."
    "And that's all?"
    "Yes, and as I said before, 'There must be no survivors; complete obliteration'."
    "And it's only a Polity science vessel?"
    "No colony on the world?"
    "That's all right then."
    Kellor turned to watch as the first of the gunships entered the hold of the Samurai . They had four-man crews, which meant his own crew would be outnumbered by about twenty. He would have to prepare for that eventuality. He turned back to Conard.
    "Why?" he asked.
    "I'm sorry?"
    "Why do you want to destroy a Polity science vessel? Surely there are better military targets?"
    "That does not concern you."
    Kellor pretended to think about it then nod reluctant agreement. He had noted and filed the edge to Conard's voice. That edge had not been there at the beginning. Something had changed and the mission had acquired greater urgency. If the Separatists were becoming desperate to destroy that vessel then it carried something of huge potential value. With his back to the General, Keller allowed himself a cold little smile and glanced to the squat muscular bulk of his first officer. Jurens returned his look then nodded back to Conard. Kellor turned to watch.
    The General strode over to a group of four of his soldiers who had come aboard the Samurai in the first Junger. One of these was either ill or drunk and his fellows were attempting to support him. As the General approached they quickly stepped away. Conard did not hesitate. He kicked the soldier in his testicles then kicked his feet away from under him. As the man lay on the deck groaning Conard reached down and pulled something from his neck and tossed it aside. Jurens stepped up beside Kellor.
    "H-patch," he said. "Confederation soldiers like to stay stoned so's they don't have to think about what they're being ordered to do. Arseholes."
    The General, just to drive the point home, began systematically kicking in the soldier's ribs. The man probably couldn't feel it. Jurens spat on the deck and turned away. Kellor followed his first officer from the hold. He too, as a young mercenary, had suffered such officers as Conard.

    Alexion Smith looked neither old nor young. There was nothing fashionable nor particularly

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