The Department of Homeworld Security—Book 5
When Henry’s parents died unexpectedly, he dealt with his grief the way any healthy biologist would—by moving into their cabin to begin searching for Bigfoot. He never dreamed one would save his life, or that the four-armed Space-Sasquatch and his mate would imprint with Henry and become out-of-this-world foster parents—no matter how much Henry tries to explain that he’s an adult.
As if that’s not enough to process, the woman Henry fell head-over-heels for on Christmas Eve shows up on his doorstep—and she has to leave again in three days.
Vay has the least military experience among the Sadirian soldiers working with the Department of Homeworld Security, but still volunteered to track the dangerous Scorpiian bounty hunter running loose on Earth. Its trail leads right by Henry’s cabin, and she knew it was the only chance she’d get to see the Earthling who stole her heart.
But Henry has fallen in with the wrong crowd—a pair of Lyrians who have claimed him as their nestling—and that Vay is duty-bound to arrest for trespassing on Earth.
When they discover what has brought the Scorpiian to Henry’s woods, they’ll have to work together not just to form an odd new family, but to survive.
Approximately 25,200 words.
Available on Amazon (and Kindle Unlimited!)
(THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMEWORLD SECURITY, Book Five)
Copyright © 2017 Cassandra Chandler
All rights reserved
“Brachiation. That would explain it.” Henry looked up at the bare trees surrounding him. “If they get around by swinging through the trees, they wouldn’t leave much evidence behind.”
The fog from his breath puffed around his face in a billowing cloud. Once again, he’d forgotten his scarf. And hat. And gloves. At least he wasn’t planning to stay out long.
“Except they’re famous for leaving footprints.” He returned his gaze to the snow-covered ground. “Big footprints—hence the name. But even that evidence isn’t too common, so maybe… Maybe I should stop talking to myself.”
And save his voice for Vay. She’d be at the cabin in a few hours. He hoped whatever work she’d done the night before had gone well and that she was getting some rest. He couldn’t wait to see her again.
They had talked all day yesterday. All day, and he never once became bored or tired. He realized the newness of their relationship was contributing to how well things seemed to be going. They’d also spent a lot of time talking about his favorite topics, like scifi movies and books—which seemed to absolutely fascinate her. But even the lulls in the conversations had been companionable.
He loved spending time with her. He’d never clicked with anyone like he did with Vay. It was amazing.
A stick cracked loudly ahead of him, pulling him out of his thoughts and back into his surroundings. The hairs on his arms stood on end. He should have been paying more attention.
Aside from the recent cold snap and thick snow, the winter had been relatively mild. The black bears in the region had been known to leave their dens throughout the winter when the oak trees had a good crop of acorns. Like the trees he was walking through at that moment.
“Please don’t be a bear.”
He looked up into the dark eyes of a black bear.
“When I thought climate change was a threat to my existence, this is not what I pictured.”
The bear let out a low growl.
“Easy, fella.” Henry tried to remember what to do. His thoughts were scattered. “When a bear attacks, I’m supposed to try to look big, right? And make a lot of noise?”
The bear charged him.
Henry started waving his arms above his head and jumping up and down. He yelled as loud as he could, making gibberish sounds that grew more desperate by the second.
The bear suddenly skidded to a halt only a few feet away. It turned around, and with a startled roar, it ran away.
Henry stared after it, wondering what had just happened. Then he started to laugh.
“I can’t believe that worked.”
His skin still felt electrified from the adrenaline. He let his head drop back, eyes closed and face pointed toward the sky. Relief washed over him as he took deep, steadying breaths—until he felt warm breath flow over his face in return.
“I’m going to open my eyes now,” he said. “And I am not going to see a bear about to drop on my face.”
He slowly turned around as he opened his eyes, looking up at whatever was in the tree above him. Only it wasn’t in the tree. It was standing, hovering over him.
Henry stumbled backward, tripped over his own feet, and landed hard on his ass. His brain struggled to process what he was seeing.
“Oh my God.”
He was staring at a seven-and-a-half foot tall Sasquatch. A Sasquatch!
Its face had a flat nose and broad mouth surrounded by bluish-tinged, wrinkled skin. Most of its head and all of its body was covered in a thick coat of white fur. Its eyes were bright blue, with horizontal pupils that almost bisected its irises.
“Gorilla,” he muttered to himself. “It’s like a giant, albino gorilla. Except for the eyes… Blue, not pink.”
The Sasquatch planted two of its arms on its hips…and crossed the other pair over its chest.
Four arms. Four. Arms.
Henry’s throat was so tight, it hurt to swallow. The creature leaned forward and exhaled another huge breath from its nostrils, blowing Henry’s hair away from his face.
“An albino gorilla?” Its deep voice sounded remarkably…huffy. “That is offensive.”
Henry let out a high-pitched laugh. “It can talk. Of course it can talk. Because this is a delusion. I’ve obviously gone insane.”
“Excuse me, but I’m not an ‘it’. I’m primarily male.”
The Sasquatch stood up and fluffed the fur around its cheeks. At least, it looked like fur. Until it sharpened into stiff quills that quivered like a defensive porcupine’s.
“I’m sorry,” Henry said. “This is kind of new to me. I’ve never met a Sasquatch before.”
“A Sasquatch. You know—Bigfoot? Yeti? Gigantopithecus?” He always looked to the fossil record first to explain cryptids.
It—he—the Bigfoot rolled his eyes. It extended one of its arms to the ground to balance as it lifted a foot, and pointed at it with yet another arm. “Do my feet look big to you?”
“Uh, proportionally? I guess not. But I don’t know what else to call you.”
“How about ‘Craig’?”
“Why would I call you that?”
“Because it’s my chosen Earth name.”
Henry’s heartbeat sped up. He’d always dismissed the possibility of cryptids being of extra-terrestrial origin. But seeing ‘Craig’ in the flesh, it made a hell of a lot more sense than this lifeform evolving from something native to Earth.
“You’re an alien,” Henry said.
“I’m a Lyrian. Educate yourself.” Craig huffed out another big breath through his nostrils. “But I suppose that would be futile. If you did learn anything about us, the Sadirians would swoop in and erase your memories. You can’t throw a tnergog without them trying to give somebody a mindwipe.”
The Sasquatch… Lyrian… Craig made an offhanded gesture with one of his arms.
Henry didn’t know how to respond to Craig’s statement. He was having trouble forming coherent thoughts. To make things worse, his nose started to tingle a moment before he let out a huge sneeze. He managed to turn his head to the side at the last instant.
Craig pounded two of his hands into the ground on either side of Henry’s legs and let out an ear-splitting roar that sounded like a cross between an angry bear and a constipated elephant. Henry caught a glimpse of teeth as he fell backward—so many teeth—like the inside of a Great White’s mouth.
“Please don’t eat me,” he yelled. “It was just a sneeze.”
“What is ‘sneeeeeze’?” Craig drew out the word.
“It’s an involuntary reaction to being exposed to allergens, bright light, or cold.” Henry recited the definition like he was back in front of his class. “It’s just how the human body clears out its sinus passages and nostrils.”
Craig glared at Henry for what felt like a long time. He wasn’t sure if he should be trying to make eye contact or avoid it. The last thing he wanted to do was make Craig feel challenged.
After a few more moments, Craig sat back on the ground. “Sneeze is weird.”
“Yeah.” Henry stifled another near-hysterical laugh. He didn’t know what might set Craig off.
“This whole situation is kind of weird to me, too,” Henry continued. “But I promise, I don’t want to hurt you.”
Craig’s lips twitched up on one side. A smirk? Henry wondered if it meant the same thing to a Lyrian.
“Not that I could if I tried,” Henry said. “But I wouldn’t try. I’m not that kind of person.”
“And what kind of person are you?”
Henry sat up, very slowly. “I’m a biology teacher. I study the lifeforms on my planet and teach children about them.”
“A noble task.” Craig’s eyebrows rose. He looked sincerely impressed.
Henry couldn’t keep himself from letting out a little snort of derision. “I wish all the other Earthlings felt that way.” When Craig cocked his head to the side, Henry added, “Many of the people where I’m from don’t actually value teachers much.”
“That’s foolish,” Craig said.
“Tell me about it. I’m Henry, by the way. That’s my name.”
They sat on the ground, Craig staring intently at Henry, while Henry did his best to only make occasional eye contact. The ground was freezing, and the cold started to get to him. He pulled his coat around himself more tightly.
“You lack fur,” Craig said.
“Yeah. For the most part.” Henry laughed, then ruffled his hair. “I have this, at least.”
“That is insufficient.”
“Well, I forgot my hat and scarf at home. And my gloves.” He dropped his hands onto his lap just as his stomach let out a loud gurgle.
Craig was on him again in an instant, teeth bared as he knocked Henry backward onto the ground.
“It was just my stomach growling,” Henry yelled.
Craig kept hovering over Henry, but seemed to relax.
“Is it angry?” Craig asked.
“What? No.” Henry let out a little laugh, more relief than amusement. “It means I’m hungry. I sort of forgot to eat breakfast this morning, too.”
Craig exhaled sharply. “Earthling, where are your parents?”
Even if Craig wasn’t an alien, he couldn’t have known how his question would hit Henry right in the gut. He almost preferred when the Lyrian was getting in his face. Terror was easier to handle than the weight of his grief.
When he’d been talking to Vay, it was the first time that Henry had felt anywhere close to normal in as long as he could remember. He’d been careful to avoid the topic of his parents—which was probably part of why he hadn’t learned much about her own upbringing.
“They died a couple of months ago,” Henry said. “Car accident.”
Craig’s eyebrows rose again, his jaw going slack so that his mouth hung open. “You’re an orphan?”
“I guess so, technically. But I’m self-sufficient.”
“You ventured into a cold environment without proper coverings and neglected to feed yourself.”
Henry shook his head and laughed. “Well, when you put it like that…”