Author's Note: As always, thank you to cyanb for being my beta reader.

Kaidan Alenko is 32 years old. He has fought; he has killed. He has seen friends and strangers fall.

This is the day Kaidan Alenko dies.

It is hard to concentrate. There is a pounding in his skull, a migraine centered on his implant. His sinuses feel full and his eyes ache.

He lifts the Master X and squeezes the trigger. The weapon jumps in his hand. He does not even hear the controlled explosion that launches the 10x20mm fin-stabilized caseless round. The steel-jacketed, 75 grain bullet strikes its target. It cuts through kinetic barriers and ceramic plates.

As in slow motion, he sees the bullet punch through the Geth's photoreceptor. A blossom of white conductive fluid and decimated electronics flowers behind it. It drops into the warm water of the thermal exchange basin.

He moves his outstretched arm and squeezes the trigger again. Another Geth drops, its head a ruin of synthetic material and fluid. There is a moment of wonder: do Geth feel pain?

His comm implant buzzes with activity. Signals and noise on the open channels. It adds to the cacophony in his head. He throws a mental switch and the implant goes silent. A sudden tranquility. Like the peaceful eye, in the midst of the storm.

This is the day Kaidan Alenko dies.

There is no hate in his heart.

With a gesture of his left hand, Kaidan hurls a Geth against a wall. It shatters and drops to the water. In the same motion, he reaches to his belt and snatches a grenade from it. His thumb flips open the cover, presses the arming button. His hand throws the grenade. As the M83 arcs through the air, he braces his pistol in his cupped hand. Two more rounds punch through the upper body of a Geth that comes from the left side.

As that Geth drops, the defensive grenade explodes. Titanium fragments like razors fly through the air. Several Geth are cut off at the legs. Multiple fragments punch through one of the fuel tanks. It erupts into a fireball. The shock wave hurls Geth across the basin. They are crushed against the wall.

This is the day Kaidan Alenko dies.

He is at peace with his life.

Biotic power flares and he crushes a Geth. Its torso twists and compacts like cheap aluminum.

This is not the only fight. Small-arms fire and explosions echo through the facility. Kaiden wonders if the commander has reached the AA tower. Gunny and the Salarians need help.

"I'm arming the bomb," he told the commander. "Go save Gunny."

Gunny argued. She does that. Ever since Eden Prime, where he met her, Gunny has been an arguer. He likes that about her. This time, though, there can be no argument. Too much is at stake. The commander knew. The commander understood. So, when faced with the lives of the many and the life of one, the commander chose the many.

"Joker, head to the AA tower."

The order echoes in his head. Commander John Shepherd, the finest man Kaidan Alenko ever knew, sentenced him to death.

This is the day Kaidan Alenko dies.

He is alone.

He knows the meanings of "duty" and "honor" and "courage," the meaning of "sacrifice." He never understood "glory" or "hatred" or "vengeance."

As more Geth move in; as he fires his pistol, over and over; as he vents its heat without thought; as he unleashes biotic power that he draws from reservoirs he does not know he has...

Kaidan sees the Normandy launch. Its thrusters flare and the craft performs a maneuver that only Joker could manage. Kaidan smiles as he thinks of Joker, alive. The commander, alive. Gunny and the Salarians and everyone else on the Normandy, alive.

Being "human" is not genetic. Being human is rightness in thought and action.

Once, Kaidan watched an ancient film. A movie still extant from the 21st century. He still remembers something one of the characters said, and although he can no longer remember the character's name, the words spoken by a long-gone actor come to him, now.

"There is holiness in right action," Kaidan whispers to himself, "and courage in defense of the weak."

He takes slow, deep breaths. He aims, he fires. He fights. He kills. The migraine is gone, the ache is gone. There is only silence within him. Kaidan has found that which he searched for so long. He does not see the Geth. He sees only the one image that has always meant peace to him.

In his mind's eye, he sees a girl named Rahna. He has not seen her for decades. In his memory, she is young and beautiful. Charming and gentle. He does not recall her fear of him. Only his love for her.

As he hears a triple tone, Kaidan drops his pistol. It hisses, even in the warm water of the basin. He lays his hands in his lap and leans back against the improvised thermonuclear weapon. The Geth continue forward. He knows most will never reach him.

As the whine of the detonator charging cuts through the sound of gunfire, Kaidan smiles. He looks up at the sky of Virmire. The world is so far from his birthplace, the distance is unimaginable. A Geth reaches him. It stands still and the photoreceptor flares. Kaidan wonders if Geth can know wonder.

He reaches up an empty hand and offers it to the Geth. "Hello," Kaidan whispers, "maybe in another existence, things can be different between us."

Kaidan Alenko is 32 years old. He has fought; he has killed. He has seen friends and strangers fall. This is the day Kaidan Alenko dies. There is no hate in his heart. He is at peace with his life. He is not alone.

He does not hear the conventional explosives detonate. He does not hear a slug of Element Zero hurtle deep into a drive core. He does not feel the release of energy that can decimate cities.