"Now presenting; The Honorable Adrian Sandoval."
Muhammad Amayas had a smile jump to his face. He was instantly on his feet and facing the doorway when Sandoval turned the corner into the room. Mohammad greeted him with gusto, his arms outstretched and his feet shifting with excitement.
"Adrian Sandoval! Hello, old chum! Let me have a look at you!"
Sandoval, on the other hand, frowned at his glance around the room. He was under the impression this was a dinner party. However before him was only Judge Muhammad Amayas, his wife Bindi, and his children Opalin and Rosemi. The room was some sort of parlor, with a roaring fire place and paintings and bookshelves on the walls. Some sitting chairs and day beds were casually sprinkled around the room. The windows were cast open, and the silk curtains blew in the breeze.
This was a home of a family not in the sun all day. They allowed the radiant heat from outside, come in and a fire to stave off the chill of a passing breeze.
Not wanting to be rude, Sandoval put on a smile and bowed to his host, "Honoroble Judge Muhammad Amayas. I am honored to be invited into your home. I apologize profusely for my tardiness," Sandoval looked behind him and scanning the room, "I do hope I wasn't so late as to miss your other guests?"
"Put that fear behind you, ol' chum," said Amayas, "When you accepted my invite, I could hardly have diluted your company with friends and colleagues! I just had to devote my full attention to your presence."
Sandoval tried to conceal his grimace, "You shouldn't have, your honor."
"Pish posh! None of that "Your honor" business here, my good man," said Amayas, "We're among equals, and besides I am hardly comparable to yourself. Unless you prefer I grant it to you?"
"Don't fear, Amayas, if this is a personal dinner then we can suspend with formalities," smiled Sandoval, "I wouldn't want to dampen the mood."
"Dampen the mood," Amayas broke into a fit of laughter, "One should be so lucky, eh? Come! Come, it is a dinner date after all and you must be famished! Or would you prefer to sit?"
Sandoval brightened at the prospect of food, "Actually, if the meal is ready and I am not putting you out..."
"Nonsense! Come, now. Let us eat!"
Judge Amayas was not a man who had known want. Not for very long anyway. His dining room table was made of actual wood, and it appeared to be imported. His silver was intricately designed. His goblets of the finest caliber and his classes from expensive glass blowers.
And his mid section was only a few pant sizes away from where Sandoval's had been in danger of treading not a year before. Although far from obese, Amayas certainly filled his waistcoat and required an extension to his suspenders. However, although Sandoval judged him for it, it suited him. His round face was filled my a glorious beard that could never be imagined as "scraggly". Even his hair was tied in a nice tail behind him, looking as soft and smooth as one would wish of the finest maiden. Al this he would normally hide in his top hat, however he expertly put back with an ornate hair tie.
Some of his features carried on to his children. His olive skin, large amber eyes, and crooked nose passed down to his two daughters, however they avoided his large hands or pointed jaw he hid with his beard. Opalin got her mother's hair of a sandy brown like that of wood. Her mother, Bindi, also passed down her ability to grow extremely long hair, right down to her waist, which she braided expertly into an intricate design.
Sandoval had made the mistake of complimenting her on this braid. And now, as he sat studying the forks, he regretted getting them started as Amayas eagerly bragged about the beauty of his two daughters.
They had been joined by Amayas' eldest, Iqbal Amayas, and his wife (Sandoval had completely forgotten her name). Iqbal was an apprentice at a bank somewhere, and Amayas made no small deal about his prospects to become a partner someday. Sandoval found the whole conversation dry and sadly revealing.
Soon dinner was served, and the topic of conversation turned to politics. Sandoval knew this was a veiled attempt to turn conversation to his work.
"And I do hope they put in more rail lines. Can you imagine the convenience of being able to go at any time of day or night and catch a train quickly going to Gearford or Argenstrath? Even a late train could not bother you if they were common enough."
"Are they not common enough for you," asked Sandoval.
"I feel instead of more trains they should put in more aqueducts," said Rosemi, "Maybe some of the smaller towns could be allowed to distill the seawater like White Haven does."
"Rosemi, please," smiled Bindi, her eyes shooting to Sandoval nervously, "And why would they want to that when white Haven so graciously and efficiently does that task for us."
"They don't do it for us, they do it for themselves," said Rosemi, "Those aqueducts are capable of sending thousands of gallons a minute to White Haven to be turned to fresh water. Only mere hundreds of gallons an hour are returned."
"Very informative," smiled Sandoval, "However, surely you understand much of the water is lost in the distilling process combined with the fact they use a large portion on the many farms out in White Haven. Combine that with thieves along the aqueducts and the occasional burst pipe it is a miracle we receive so much as it is."
"It's forced scarcity," said Rosemi, "Despite their ability to double if not triple that number, those in a position to profit of the scarcity of water ensure the systems are not too efficient. Combine this with the blatant corruption in White Haven-"
"Rosemi! How dare you speak in this manner to a guest!" Amayas slammed his hands on the table.
"Please, Honorable Judge Amayas," said Sandoval, snapping the attention back to him, "Take no offense at it. Let's hold court. Miss Rosemi has struck good points."
Sandoval turned to Rosemi, "I acknowledge the blatant corruption of White Haven. However, you fail to recognize that the aqueducts and the water that they generate is designed, overseen, and updated by our very own House of Engineers. Experts, I assure you. If there was a better or more efficient way to go about it I am sure they would have or will find it."
Sandoval furrowed his brow, "Are they what?"
Rosemi sighed at the question, "Are they experts? Are they doing what is best? What is right? What is efficient? Or do they do what is profitable?"
"Rosemi!" gasped Bindi.
"How seditious," murmured Opalin.
"How healthy," corrected Sandoval, "To question when one does not know."
"I feel I have a good view of the truth," said Rosemi, "These experts appear to be chosen as such based on their wealth and business success. Does that truly make them an expert? Or a business man? What happens when said business men decide that the nation's laws and regulations should profit them and bankrupt their opponents?"
"I suppose that is why we have two houses including an impartial house of commons," said Sandoval, "However, I see your point. May I ask you what you wish to be the alternative? Should we have a singular ruler? Maybe his chosen wife and children will be experts on mercantile practices and the sciences? Would you leave it up to the public? Uneducated? Uninformed? So easily bought with Simos and promises? If you wish to be more selective about which experts get a say on what topics and for how long, than how do you chose the people who chose? If they have so much more a right to chose... than why not have them in charge?"
The table went quiet. Rosemi swallowed.
"You see, regardless if it pleases you, there is a reason the technocratic salvation front suceeded and we are now the shining beacon of industry that we are."
"We are just," added in Amayas, "With the most knowledgeable in command of their fields, we all may benefit from their successess. Surely they are going to prosper as well, but should they not?"
"So, if this is the best path," said Rosemi, "Then how come you are here, Mr. Sandoval?"
"If the papers are to be believed," said Rosemi, "And my father; you have spent a great deal of time heading out into the desert, slinging guns, downing pirate ships, saving damsels. However, are you an 'expert'? What about being a judge in Gearford makes you the best choice to go after the Astam Kid?"
"Rose-" Amayas started.
"I am not being disrespectful!" said Rosemi, "I am simply saying if we agree on the first, than shouldn't we be sending some Bounty Hunter or Mercenary or even our Soldiers to be rounding up criminals such as the Astam Kid?"
Sandoval raised his hand to stop Amayas' preceived interuption, "Perhaps, you are right. A chink in our armor we try and cover with expensive threads. However, is that... what you want? What you truly want?"
"Bounty Hunters," continued Sandoval, "Are just assassin's who get their contracts from the government. Is that the peace you want? Any man with a gun and cold nerves running around deciding what laws to enforce based on a paycheck? Disgusting. In this instance, I feel we should be trying to put forward who we want to be the experts. That is... the core of my whole mission out here. For decades we have put the law in the hands of mercinaries. Even the old king had allowed these lone wolves loose with promise of pay. Many of these same heroes would be the very villains they hunt in any other situation. In fact, I wager most are. What seperates a hunter from the bounty? In some instances, it is whoever wins a gun duel or whoever is in enough power to turn the other in. It is revolting."
"They aren't all bad," said Rosemi more timidly, "Surely not every istoki traveler who dedicates their lives to holding the outlaws to justice is doing it for the money?"
Sandoval nodded, "I do not believe that out of all the loose cannons in our justice system there aren't a few, or even many, who are doing it for the right reason. What I am trying to convey, however, is if these individuals truly wanted to help enforce the laws and serve their Antifordian community, they would be in a uniform. In an ideal Antiford... an Antiford I am fighting for, the railways reach far and wide to every Antiford town. The police force has no want of volunteers, no lack of funding, and no lack of reach to protect our citizens."
Amayas raised his glass, "Here, here. And let us not forget that there is a reason the papers as well as myself rave so much of Judge Sandoval's exploits. Since he has taken over as Department Chief and arrived in Astam; Judge Sandoval has brought countless to justice."
"Please," said Sandoval, "I have merely facilitated many others to more effectively do their jobs. Surely my predessessor didn't mean to have a lesser record. However, I will say I am in constant contact with Gearford to ensure we get the supplies and man power needed to keep our forward momentum going."
"Well, let's hope that that answers your childish questions," said Amayas.
"Now, Muhammad," said Sandoval, "Let me just praise your daughter for her conversation. I hope you plan on sending her to a university."
Sandoval turned to Rosemi, "It is not a bad thing to question the world around you. You also defended your stances well. I can see you studying law and becoming a lawyer, Miss Rosemi."
"A lawyer?" questioned Rosemi.
"I know in my days practicing law I would have hated to come toe to toe with you," said Sandoval, "And with a proper understanding of the law putting your worries to rest, you could be unstoppable in court. Your father shouldn't be embarrassed, he should be very proud."
This brightened Amayas up. He smiled at his daughter, who nodded her thanks. Sandoval smiled. Such a bright young woman. He believed Amayas had mentioned earlier she was 17. Maybe 18? Maybe that was her sister, Opalin. She was the youngest, after all.
Sandoval found himself feeling a lot better. So much more stimulating a conversation than he had anticipated.
Sandoval found himself in a much better mood for the remainder of the dinner.