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Chapter XIX

            Stephan Vendor was definitely NOT going to abide by the law.
            Stephan Vendor, along with two other men, Ted Mitchell and Warren Sigfield, had been notorious criminals on Earth. Therefore, the Earth people were relieved when they no longer heard of the daring robberies that the trio had been so adept at executing successfully. They would not have been so relieved if they know that they hadn't died, as they had hoped, but had simply retreated to one of the asteroids a short distance from the orbit of Mars.
            Warren Sigfield was a genius; a mechanical genius. Anything that could move or run, Warren could take apart, study, put back together, and run with the least bit of trouble. He was a born mechanic. You could tell that by the way he ran his fingers over a motor or engine---caressing, yet at the same time examining. This mechanical genius had a flair for invention. That was the reason the police force on Earth never captured him. He was up, and ahead of the times, with unique gadgets that could blow a safe, open a door, blast an enemy, or elude an unwanted pursuer. He could improve anything that had been invented by another, also. He built a small, three-seated rocket that could stand still in mid-space---that had long been considered an impossibility. But then, too, a machine that could stand still in air was considered an impossibility for an even-greater length of time---until the helicopter came along. This compact craft was also noted for its easy maneuverability. It was not noted for its revolutionary new weapon that could set up a force field around a moving ship, one that instantly killed the crew, reduced the hull to rubble, and enabled the trio to acquire an adequate supply of the highly condensed oxygen and food. It was not noted for that weapon because no one that had ever seen it in action, or even knew about its existence, or was left alive long enough to report it. They didn't resent its lack of publicity, however. The ships that they destroyed were simply reported as "wrecked," presumably by meteors that frequented the area.
            Ted Mitchell was the only one of the three that had any "horse sense." It is a fact that frequently the very intelligent, either in a mechanical or in a mental sense, do not have too much of the very necessary common sense. It was Ted who thought over the plans that Stephan Vendor, the "brain" of the group, dreamed up, and passed the final verdict upon the matter. Ted was almost psychic when it came to figuring how the people would react to any act that they might plan to accomplish. He could figure the chances that any "project” had of coming out to the good or bad. He had an extremely logical mind---one, to be sure, that anyone would envy in a better man. It was Ted's poor luck to be cast in with thugs; it was the trio's good fortune.
            None of the three were unpleasing to the eye. They were not the "ruffian" type so popularized by the television programs. They were very ordinary persons. It was their occupation that made them stand out.
            There is no way to adequately describe with accuracy any of the three. Warren had a crewcut, but he was not a rough sort of man with short hair. The real reason that he had it cut was to keep it out of the machinery that he was forever involved with. Ted had a pug nose, but not the most disfiguring pug nose that you have ever had the misfortune to see. They didn’t look like gangsters. The best picture you could get of them would be to go into the street and look at every man that you see passing. Of course, you would use judgment. One of them would have a scar on his cheek---no, he couldn't be one of them because he DOES look like a gangster. A few women would pass, maybe a little boy, maybe a three-year-old girl, then another man. Him! Yes, he's perfect. He looks just like Stephen. He's just the type that you might see waiting for a bus on the corner, or buying a paper at the next corner, or kissing his wife between them. The way he holds his head, the merry look in his eyes as he passes a pretty girl, the way his chin is slightly dimpled, the way his feet turn outward as he walks---not enough to notice if you didn't want to---you could see the slant if you looked hard.
            The next one that passes has a girl on his arm, he's maybe twenty-three; well, so is Warren, but he looks much more mature---not too much. There he comes walking down the street---that could be him in the car that just pulled up to the curb a second ago to let out his wife. It LOOKED like him anyway; he's not married. The guy that you see every so often, jerking sodas---no, not him, the one in the other store, he's more like him, could be the spitting image of Stephan.
            We have our faces---let's go!
            The trio certainly didn't want to go back to Earth. They were having the time of their lives up there on "Sally Lou," THEIR asteroid. They didn't particular miss the opposite sex; why they named their home "Sally Lou" is beyond me. They had no other ideas, I guess. They were wonderful chess-players---yes, chess! They were evenly matched and they used to while away the hours by playing tournaments. It was always a three-game tourney; two would play while the other watched, as much a part of the play as the contestants; the loser of that game would play the one that watched the first one, and then the two winners would play to see who was the champ. The crown didn't remain on the victor's head long, however. They had one set of games a week; usually there was a different champion each time.
            Ted was an avid stamp collector and replenished his collection each time they captured a ship. All three of them collected objects: Ted, stamps; Stephan, books about the history of the world; and Warren collected minerals: he prided himself on his collection of ninety-seven of the hundred-odd---he didn't know how many, he hadn't been kept up to date on those matters. Books about minerals weren't often found in the wreckage of the ships. Stephan had a complete collection of the works of Plutarch, a very scarce man to find nowadays; and Ted had in his possession the rarest stamp in the universe---that British Guiana which had been treasured so long by various New York philatelists. In one of the stamp monthlies that he was fortunate enough to find on one of the wrecks, he found a thousand credits as a reward to be given to the person who rediscovered it. No one knew that it was in the hands of one of the three best-hated men in the solar system.
            For relaxation they watched the television that had been set up by the mechanical genius of Warren Sigfield. They even danced together with the new dance steps that the busy world found time to dream up. The three greatest criminals in the Solar System were satisfied; the only time they wrecked a ship was at any time when one of the collectors thought that they could have an addition to their collection. They were most certainly not going to come down to Earth; they were going to stay in their self-made heaven till they died.