Hemelshot smiled at his reflection. It had taken a long time for him to be able to accomplish this simple task, but it was worth it.

* * * * *

The first days in prison were probably the worst. He'd known what it would be like, at least intellectually. Reality was a shock, and it was months before he was able to settle into a routine. He had always been good at that. It wasn't what saved him, but it helped during the time he couldn't bear to look in the mirror. Carpenter—no, Nathan now. He wasn't a cop anymore. Would never be a cop again. That was the thought that ran through his mind, that kept him awake at night.

Nathan had visited every couple of days. Hemelshot could tell things were incredibly busy on the outside—he got the papers and saw the news—and Nathan frequently arrived looking like he was missing sleep. Hemelshot knew it was a burden on his friend, but he... just couldn't ask him to stop.

It was a humbling realization, to know that he needed someone. That he needed the most fundamental of human interaction—simple conversation. Michelle visited daily and often brought Lorraine, but that wasn't the same. And it wasn't as if he talked with other inmates. As an ex-cop in prison his life would be nasty and short if he wasn't in a special minimum-security prison and isolated from the general population. The few people he did see regularly were white-collar criminals - lawyers, politicians and the like—with whom Hemelshot simply had little in common.

The rest of the squad visited on a regular basis, but it was Nathan that helped maintain that connection between Hemelshot and everyday life. It was also Nathan who forced him to analyze his actions, his belief, and his faith in God. They still disagreed, sometimes heatedly, about the difference between what was right and what was best. It would probably always be a fundamental difference between them, and both acknowledged that perhaps that was not a bad thing. They balanced one another, between idealism and pragmatism, between following the word of God and respecting the laws of man.

Hemelshot knew he had sinned, and while he would pay for his crimes against Angelus with year in prision, he would be spending the rest of his life seeking redemption in the eyes of God. It was a journey, he knew, not a destination, and while the destination may be unachievable it was the journey that truely mattered.

And in between visits, between conversation and philosophy in the silence of his cell, he'd made plans. He'd watched the news and saw the creation of the Clade Nation, the esper Institute, the hesitant megacorp return and the general malaise of the city. He'd had Cadbury's moment of perfection when he organized the city after the disaster, but that had been her moment. Hemelshot wanted his own moment of perfection, and laid out plans accordingly.

First was getting his law degree and brokers license. He knew he'd need a legal and financial foundation to build upon, and while adding yet another lawyer to the city stuck in his craw, it was necessary. It wasn't as if he had no influence with people who made the laws, or was an unknown voice crying in the wilderness, but before he could become an effective voice he needed to know what he was talking about.

That resulted in his receiving his degree in business law and the establishment of Justice Incorporated, a full-service, equal opportunity investment firm. His previous investments had matured nicely, setting him up with a seven-figure income before he walked out of prison.

And that was before the job offers. His record—with one notable exception—was exemplary, and even that exception made him more attractive to the mercenary offers. His work as Disaster Coordinator had impressed many and put him in contact with many more, putting him a the center of an impressive web of informants, contacts and people who were happy to do him a favor. This served him well in the first few years before Justice Inc proved itself in the financial world.

In the meantime, he'd worked as a combat instructor for XSWAT and the Clade Nation. While the money was good, it had been the chance to get the military-grade forces of the city working together. The clades needed training, XSWAT needed to keep its edge, and the two independent law-enforcement systems had to learn to work with, instead of in spite of, one another.

That had been a headache and a half. The paperpushers had only taken a few short months to put the Clade Nation together, and the shoddy work showed. Leo had been tireless in his efforts to reform and rebuild the laws, and Hemelshot had helped where he could. Perhaps his best success was instigating joint patrols which had in turn necessitated unified tactics, and since the clades didn't have an existing manual Hemelshot was able to talk them into pretty much adopting the Angelus legal model. With modifications, of course, and only until they clade government was able to turn its attention to re-writing the laws. But Hemelshot knew bureaucracies—even new ones—would take the path of least resistance and once the law-enforcement system was proven to be effective, the motto of "ain't broke, don't fix" would rule.

The Institute was another ordeal, but one that had headaches of a completely different nature. They were already subject to Angelus law, they didn't need much in the way of a security force and they didn't need any training that Hemelshot could provide. It was the combination of esper abilities—namely precognition—and the financial speculation of Justice Inc that brought about the attention of the Angelus Department of Commerce.

He'd know the battle was coming, prepared for it and was able to point out that the esper's ability to make intuitive leaps in technological research was a prized ability. Forecasting stocks was merely a different aspect of this same talent, and unless Angelus wished to outlaw espers from all research positions his employees were untouchable. Several years of legal battles later resulted in a Supreme Court decision that allowed espers to use their abilities in any gainful employment for which they were suited, but the implications were that a sentient could not be discriminated against because of natural abilities.

Hal revealed himself to the public shortly thereafter, which opened up an entirely new can of worms. Hemelshot allowed himself a chuckle as those legal battles began.

But in the short term it simply made every employee of Justice Inc very, very rich. Their legality established, investors knew an opportunity when they saw one and the net worth of the company nearly doubled overnight, and increased by an order of magnitude over the next two years.

The early company policy of hiring espers and clades without prejudice, in the years right after the battles, had caused some investors to doubt its viability in a human-centric city. As the Clade Nation established itself the company branched into banking operations and its franchises became the primary, though small-scale, financial institutions of the new nation - franchises, as the clades wouldn't trust anyone else with their money. Hemelshot had been one of the few financial entities willing to deal on any sort of reasonable terms, and even though the initial profits had been minor the policy paid off in the long run. Equal-opportunity employment practices with clades had helped hire the precogs, who had in turn made the company a success and allowed increasing capabilities in the Angelus financial world, which allowed even greater aid to the Clade Nation. The cycles took years to complete, but each built upon the success of the other and in the center of it all was He
melshot. Plotting, planning, grinning and making money hand over fist.

It was seven years since he'd been released from prison before he felt the time was right to announce his intention to run for the city council.

There had been quite some shock over his candidacy, as he was in fact a convicted felon—and convicted by his own admission, as well. Much was made of this fact, but unfortunately for his opponents it had been the only substantial issue they could find. His record before and since had been exemplary, and he was a well-known, well-respected pillar of the financial world and seen by many as one of the leading figures in human-esper-clade relations. His conviction actually had a spark of appeal to the more hard-line conservatives, as he had shown he was quite willing to lose his career over doing what he believed was best for the city. Comparisons between Davies and Hitler's Final Solution were prominent in his campaign ads.

He had lost, of course, but he had received a surprising percentage of the vote and made a name for himself as a contender. The sitting Councilman was unlikely to be looking forward to the next election.

Things were proceeding nicely.

* * * * *

Hemelshot tried yet again to straighten his tie. It was an important day, and he wanted to look his best for Lorraine's high-school graduation. She had already been accepted into the police academy, and one of the proudest moments in his life, out of all he had accomplished, was when she told him and said,

"I want to be like you, daddy."

He smiled at his reflection.