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Project G.A.L.R.A.

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Keith sighed, tapping the back end of his pen against his notebook. The professor was on another tangent, talking about how anyone with an ounce of engineering sense could see that the barricades being used around outbreak sites had been doomed from the start. Honestly, Keith kinda agreed, but he wasn’t racking up several thousand dollars a year in student loans to discuss current events. He could do that anywhere with an internet connection.

A loud thump from the hallway made the professor stop talking, and Keith sat up straighter in his seat. Now that Mr. Shain was no longer ranting about the structural integrity of industrial chain link fences, he could hear a commotion outside. Keith stuffed his notebook in his bag, and pulled out his knife. As weapons went it wasn’t great, but it was better than trying to use a chair or something, especially since this class was on the fourth floor of the building.

“Dude, what the fuck?” the big guy sitting across the aisle yelped, drawing every eye to him as he swung his backpack up onto his left shoulder. Unfortunately, this meant the professor wasn’t looking when he opened the door. Keith was, though, and his heart sped up at the sight. Jaundiced eyes and heavily bruised skin, the symptoms everyone with a brain was supposed to be on watch for.

Someone in one of the first rows screamed, and just like that it was pandemonium. Strategically it would’ve been best to shut the door and pick the infected off as they came, but it was too late for that. Three galra were already inside the room, and Keith didn’t doubt that his classmates’ screams would draw more by the second. But how to get past them?

“Big guy!” he yelled, stepping out into the aisle and pulling the dark skinned boy to his feet from where he’d curled up in fear. “You any good at taking a hit?”

“Um, a little?” he whimpered. Keith gritted his teeth. It would have to be good enough.

“We’re getting out of here. You’re my battering ram.” he grabbed the guy’s backpack and shoved it into his arms. “Capische?”

The big guy nodded, and Keith stepped back to drag him into the aisle. “We shoot for the far stairs. Central ones are going to be clogged.”

The big guy nodded, and squared his jaw. “Got it.” he turned to face down the stairs to the front of the room, and let out one of the best battle cries Keith had ever heard before charging. Keith scrambled after him, swinging his backpack like a particularly unwieldy bludgeon at galra which managed to avoid being bowled over, and together they made it into the stairwell. It stank of blood and shit, and he gagged. All the books and forums in the world hadn’t prepared him for this. In front of him, his classmate-turned-battering-ram doubled over and lost his lunch.

“C’mon, we can’t stop here.” Keith said quickly, grabbing the larger boy’s wrist and pulling him around the puddle of puke. The infected behind them were probably getting back up by now, and he really didn’t want to join their ranks.

“Where are we even going?” his classmate asked, and Keith squared his shoulders. Survive now, freak out about the dead bodies later.

“My dorm.” he said with all the confidence he could muster. “I’ve got shit to keep us both alive, but you have to move.” he gave the guy a shove, and that seemed to be all he needed to start going again. The stairs were trickier than the hallway had been, the flats of too many steps slick with blood, but at least he’d been right about them being less crowded. A few galra with bashed-in skulls proved that others had gotten the same idea, and Keith hoped they were okay.

The little foyer-like area at the base of the stairs was thankfully deserted, and Keith grabbed the back of his classmate’s shirt to stop him from barging outside. “Wait.” he hissed, heels skidding on the tile as he was dragged towards the exit.

“What happened to ‘move’?” the larger boy hissed back, the sharp edge of panic clearly audible in his voice.

“If we bust out of here screaming, we’ll draw the galra right to us.” Keith snapped, releasing his classmate’s shirt. “Everything I’ve seen online suggests they’re attracted to sound more than anything else.”

“Oh god, you’re a weirdo. Why am I going along with this?”

“Because I’m a living weirdo, and you don’t want to become a galra?” Keith offered. “If we’re smart about this, we can get past any infected wandering around outside without a fight. Idunno about you, but I’m not exactly armed for the apocalypse.” he held up his backpack and knife, and his classmate laughed.

“Oh man, you’re nuts.”

Keith scowled. “You don’t have to come with me, you know.” he said sharply, pushing past his classmate and slipping out the door. There weren’t any galra in sight, but this building was pretty much on the edge of campus. His dorm wasn’t far, but it was towards the busier parts of the college. The door opened and shut behind him, and his scaredy-cat classmate crept over to him with the most exaggerated tip-toe Keith had ever seen outside of old Saturday morning cartoons. Keith raised an eyebrow.

“You’re still nuts, but there are zombies in there!” his classmate hissed. Keith rolled his eyes. In all likelihood, there were more galra out here than in the building they’d just left.

“Galra.” he said simply, starting towards his dorm building.

“What?”

“They’re called galra.” Keith held up a hand to forestall his classmate’s response, and gestured for the big guy to follow him towards the building’s wall. There was a massive knot of the things around the corner, and from the sounds Keith would guess... well, he wasn’t going to think about it too hard. “We’re gonna have to run for it. Think you can make it to Hobson?”

“Honestly, I think I’ve got enough adrenaline in me to lift a car.” his classmate chuckled humorlessly.

“Stay close.” Keith tightened his grip on his knife, and bolted. His classmate’s heavy footsteps were right on his heels, and they hadn’t even made the next building before something screamed. It wasn’t a human sound, despite the fact that it must have come from a human throat, and Keith firmly pushed that thought out of his head. Run now, panic later. His dorm was the oldest building on campus, which had been a source of vexation for him from the day he moved in but now just might save his life. Old building meant solid doors, solid doors meant more time to breathe before the galra got at him.

He poured on the speed, and his classmate’s heavy breaths behind him were followed closely by the shrieking of a mob of infected former students and townies. Keith slashed a galra’s hand as it reached for him, and knocked another aside with his backpack. The ground was littered with bodies, the air almost as rancid as the staircase, and Keith’s arms were aching from swinging around his backpack like a weapon but he didn’t slow down. His classmate was whimpering behind him, and they had almost made it to the stairs when the big guy let out a scream of pain.

“Let go!” he yelled as Keith spun on the ball of his foot. His backpack swung out like a particularly unwieldy mace, and smashed into the skull of the galra which had outstripped the horde and latched onto his classmate’s arm teeth-first. It recoiled, shrieking, and Keith darted forward to grab his classmate by the shirt.

“Run!” he shouted over the howling mob, and a good hard yank was all it took to get the big guy moving again. The door unlocked when he slammed his id against the pad, and Keith definitely did not scream in fear when a bruised-purple hand curled around the old wood before it could swing shut. “Pull, pull!” he yelled, planting his foot against the doorframe and putting his entire body weight into the task. It wasn’t working, of course it wasn’t working, Project G.A.L.R.A. had been intended to make super-soldiers, of course the galra were stronger than normal humans.

“Oh my god there’s another one!” his classmate screamed, and Keith released the handle to stab at the hand reaching for his foot on the wall. A few vicious swings had it retreating, and another few stabs were enough to make the grasping hand let go, now minus a few fingers. The door slammed shut, and Keith staggered back as his classmate fell over. For a few long seconds they stared at the shut door, the only sounds in the room their harsh breaths and the muffled inhuman screams from outside.

“Think there’s any more zombies in here?” his classmate asked quietly, looking over his shoulder.

Keith shook his head. “Nobody spends time in here if they can help it.” he took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, trying to remember everything he’d read about preparing for this kind of apocalypse. First things first, he’d have to convince his classmate to stick around and not stab him in the back later. Then they had to get away from the city, out into less-populated areas where there wouldn’t be as many galra to worry about. That would be tricky, there were suburbs for hours even in a car, and the highways would be clogged all to hell. Keith ran a hand through his hair, pushing his bangs out of his face.

“I’m Hunk, by the way. Hunk Pelekai.”

Keith turned his head to look at his classmate, and found a hand dangerously close to being in his personal space. “Keith Kogane.” he replied, shaking Hunk’s extended hand. It was wet, and kinda sticky. Oh, yeah, they were both covered in blood. He grimaced and looked at the smears of red which decorated his palm. “Let’s get you to the bathroom. I can grab the first aid kit from my room while you wash up.”

“First aid?” Hunk frowned.

“Y’know, for your arm?” Keith gestured towards the bloody mark high on his classmate’s sleeve, then wiped his hand on his jeans and stood up.

“Oh shit, it got me?” Hunk yelped, staring at the injury like he’d only just noticed it. Hell, with all the screaming and adrenaline and stuff, maybe he had.

“Yeah. So get off your ass and follow me.” he made a beckoning gesture, and started towards the stairs. Hunk followed in a hurry, heavy footsteps loud on the old floors of the empty hallway, and Keith lead the way to the bathroom that had showers attached. “I’ll be back before the hot water kicks in.” he assured Hunk before stepping back into the hallway and heading for his room.

The first aid kit was right where he’d left it, tucked under the foot of his bed, and he rifled through it quickly to double check that he had what he needed. Disinfectant, gauze pads, cotton bandages, medical tape, oh wow he even had a tourniquet. More than enough to patch up Hunk’s arm. He flipped the kit’s latches shut again, grabbed the box by its handle, and headed back to the bathroom.

Hunk was holding one arm under the shower’s spray, clutching his shirt in the other hand to keep it out of the likely frigid water. It was running more or less clear as it swirled around the drain, which Keith could only assume was a good sign. He rapped on the door, and Hunk startled.

“Oh man, I thought you were a zombie or something.” he chuckled, rubbing the back of his head with his wet hand. A second later he shivered, probably from water dripping down his back. “Is that your first aid kit?”

“Yeah.” Keith nodded. “Come on over to the sink, the light’s less awful over there.”

Hunk followed him into the other half of the bathroom, and held his arm out so Keith could get a good look at the wound.

“It looks pretty clean.” he said after a moment. “But I’ll put this stuff on it just in case.” he pulled out the tube, and squeezed a liberal amount of its contents out onto Hunk’s skin. The larger boy whimpered, and Keith held his arm firmly at the elbow to stop him from flinching away. “Hold still, you big baby.” he huffed, rubbing the gel over where Hunk’s skin was broken.

“But it huuurts.”

Keith rolled his eyes. “It’ll hurt worse if it gets infected, so shut up and let me get the bandages on.” he capped the disinfectant, tossed it back in the box, and picked up the gauze pads. They stuck to Hunk’s skin, damp as it was with cool water and clear gel, and he used an extra one to dry off the skin around where he needed to tape down one end of the bandage. The wrap, when it was done, was perhaps a bit bulkier than was strictly necessary. But it would stay in place until it needed changing, which would be, uh, probably soon. Maybe tomorrow? Shit, of all the times to be stuck in a building without functioning wifi.

Hunk stayed still even as Keith was putting away the bandages and gauze, and when Keith snapped the first aid kit’s latches shut he still hadn’t moved. Keith sighed, and snapped his fingers in front of his classmate’s face. “Are you going to stay in here all day, or are we going to head to my room and plan?”

“Plan?” Hunk’s voice squeaked, and Keith noticed that the larger boy was on the verge of tears. “I’m going to turn into a zombie, and you want to make plans?!”

Keith couldn’t help it, he rolled his eyes. “They’re not zombies, moron.” he huffed, lifting the box from the bathroom counter. “They’re galra. And anyways the chances of contracting an infection from a bite wound are, like, stupid small. Under twenty percent.”

“Wha- how do you even know that?” Hunk’s face scrunched up in an incredulous frown.

“Internet.” Keith shrugged, walking towards the door. “Now are you following me or not?”

“Following, I’m following.”