Robert Jeschonek is an award-winning, USA Today-bestselling author whose action-packed, envelope-pushing fiction has made waves around the world. His stories have appeared in Clarkesworld, Pseudopod, Pulphouse, and many other publications. He has also written official Star Trek and Doctor Who fiction.

Cosmic Conflicts by Robert Jeschonek

Born in the throes of violence! Teeming with conflict ever since! Constant struggle is the way of our universe and the heart of this thrilling collection of stories. Get caught up in the excitement of cosmic gods at war over battleground Earth…a life-or-death battle between alien races claiming the legacy of a monstrous humanity…apocalyptic strife over the adoption of a vicious alien infant…and the blitzing of a world dominated by bloodthirsty dragons. Experience one spectacular clash after another in the unforgettable words of USA Today bestselling author Robert Jeschonek, a scifi champion with a Star Trek and Doctor Who pedigree…plus a story co-written with Mike Resnick, the legendary winner of five Hugo Awards and a Nebula.

CURATOR'S NOTE

•Thrill-packed space opera is one of my favorite genres to read, watch, listen to…and write. This volume, exclusive to the Celestial Sagas StoryBundle, collects nine of my stories in the space opera universe, loaded with action and the "out-there" originality that my "Planet Bob" style of fiction is known for. You'll find a story of medical derring-do in a distant war zone…off-the-wall aliens impersonating humanity to make the most of its bad reputation…an entire decade in danger of imminent destruction…a flying saucer cereal mascot brought to life in an all-out battle for survival…and adoptive parents whose alien baby turns out to be much more trouble than they ever expected (and the impetus of an interplanetary war in the making). If you love Star Wars, Star Trek, and the many permutations of space opera in general, you'll find plenty of kicks here to jack your engines all the way up to Warp One Million and beyond. – Robert Jeschonek

 
 

BOOK PREVIEW

Excerpt

Story by Robert Jeschonek: Why You Should Think Twice Before Adopting an Alien Baby

As I stand on the narrow ledge, back tight against the mountainside, geysers of superheated steam erupt from the cleft below. I press the purple-skinned Iskani baby against my chest, shielding her with my arms as best I can from the scalding heat…though, as humans, my wife and I are more in need of protection than this extraterrestrial child is.

Squinting through the steam, I see a flight of Iskani warriors approaching astride their giant, leopard-furred dragons. Each flap of the dragons' wings brings them closer, their warrior riders taking aim at us with their glittering, electrified javelins.

For what must be at least the millionth time, I find myself wishing we had never agreed to the adoption of the baby in my arms, an adoption that has made our lives terrible and led directly to this moment of imminent peril.

"Paul!" shouts my wife, Maeve, who is pressed against the mountainside next to me. "The ledge is shrinking!"

Looking down, I see it's true. The thin shelf of orange stone is slowly squeezing back into the mountain.

It is then I realize we stand not on a rocky formation, but on one of the living bioliths that inhabit the Iskani landscape. The locals call them chorlak, which translates into English as "hungry mountains."

I feel the ledge tremble and know it will soon disappear, sending us plunging into the gaping cleft that has opened below.

Sweat pours down my face. The Iskani baby shrieks and gouges my chest with her jagged claws. The toxic green sludge that passes for baby excrement on Isk oozes over my arms and stomach, burning my skin.

As I stare into the child's huge, indigo eyes, anger wells from deep in my heart. We've been through so much because of her, and now it seems we're going to die. There is no way out.

KRA-BOOOOM

We aren't the only ones in mortal danger, either. A massive explosion draws my attention skyward, where the Earthfleet star carrier Lewis Puller is engaged in low atmosphere combat with three smaller but no less deadly Iskani warships. The Puller has taken a massive hit; even from a distance, I can see the carrier wobble as clouds of smoke and debris billow from her lower hull. If she goes down, the hundreds of men and women aboard her will perish, and the Iskani warfleet will face no opposition in launching an attack on Earth's nearby outpost, Hammurabi VII.

It will all be because of her, the baby…her and the Star Stork organization that brought us together and enabled the disastrous interstellar adoption.

It is then, in this dark moment, as the warships pound the Puller, the dragonriders prepare to release their javelins, the ledge narrows, and the steaming maw of the living mountain widens to swallow us, that I think about throwing the child into the depths.

It's an idea that's been growing in the back of my mind, in one form or another, since the moment we first met baby Oyo.

#

"And smile!" A bright light flared in my eyes, briefly blinding me.

Maeve, in the window seat beside me, gripped my arm a little tighter. Though we'd been traveling through space aboard the gravity liner Starbright for weeks, making our first trip ever out of Earth's solar system, the truly stressful part of our journey—facing the media—had just begun.

As the light cleared, the photographer—a hologram projected from Hammurabi VII—grinned and flashed a big thumbs-up. "Perfect! Our readers will love that shot!"

"Mr. and Mrs. Carter." The hologram of an ebony-skinned reporter from a top-rated video news feed shoved in front of us the instant the photographer got his shot. Her three little camera orbs zipped in with her, focused on me and Maeve. "How does it feel to make history?" She gave her head a toss, and her glowing golden nimbus of hair crackled softly. "How does it feel to be the first human couple to adopt an alien child?"

"It feels amazing." Maeve brushed a strand of bright red hair from her eyes. "It feels like the most wonderful thing that's ever happened to us."

I smiled in complete agreement. This was a day we'd hardly dared expect would ever come, yet now it was upon us…the culmination of the hopes and dreams we'd shared from the start of our marriage.

We were going to have a family.