Hyperion's struggle endures. We stewards of the last free city know too well that we cannot hope to win a battle of attrition. Something must be done to alter our fate before we are utterly consumed by it. If we fall, humanity will require men and women like you to bear our standards onward.
Force of Gravity is the second installment in the saga of Benjamin Meaks. We have seen the fires of hope and belief kindled within him. Now, we must see the steel of his resolve tempered by far greater trials than any youthful spirit ought to suffer. To continue his tale, you must also be prepared to confront the inconvenient truths of your present existence.
If you have come this far with us, we are already victorious. It may not be possible to divine which seed will flourish and rise to the mightiest height, but it would be foolish not to recognize that more seeds are superior to few. Hyperion will never turn away an inquisitive mind. We can ill afford to be so wasteful.
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Read an Excerpt
Force of Gravity
THE HYPERION CHRONICLES
By J.J. Fox, Jim Driggs
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 J.J. Fox
All rights reserved.
Ben had come to cherish the stillness of the pre-dawn morning at Plasmos. Despite the winter's chilling bite, he rose each day, before necessary, to enjoy a few, brief moments of peace. Goran, ever-vigilant, joined him in the waning moonlight and long shadows at the edge of his platform. Below them, the moon's pale luster shone upon the fresh blankets of snow. The mountain lay dormant, utterly content to savor the warmth of its hearths rather than brave the bitterness of winter. The sun would soon rise behind them and stir the tranquility back to life. Today was a day of great importance, but Ben could not help wishing that time would grant him an extension to his reprieve; that it would freeze like the banks of the river below. Regrettably, like most of nature's divinity, no such alterations were possible.
Being Champion of the Elemental Tournament had certainly come with perks. Each morning, despite his lowly rank, the senior most members of his Elemental kin stationed at Plasmos would escort him to the head of the line in the Mess Hall. Ben could not help but marvel at the smiles of his brethren as he passed through the throng each day. The Lightning Elementals embraced him as a brother, as one of their own. The Quartermaster and Knowledge Ming both considered him advanced enough, as compared to his fellow rank mates, that he had been excused from any formal training until such time as his broken clavicle was sufficiently healed. It was as though Lord Furion Roth himself had ordered that Ben be left to his own devices and undisturbed by the general comings and goings of the mountain stronghold.
Ben had made the most of the fortuitous situation. He rested in his quarters during the day to make up for the long flights each night from Haven to Plasmos. Brielle Connor was worth it. The touch of her hand, the scent of her skin, and the taste of her lips were worth any bodily or mental fatigue. He would forgo sleep for the rest of his life if it meant he could spend the time with her. As Ben stood in the frozen silence, his mind returned to the shores of Haven once more. He could feel the warmth of her embrace and see the desperate, passionate love radiating from her penetrating, blue eyes. The cadence of her heart beating powerfully enough that he could feel it through her military tunic echoed like a cascading soundtrack to his memories. Together, they had lived out the fantasy of Ben's letter for the better part of two perfect weeks. Today, everything would change and Ben desperately wished the continuation of his destiny could just wait a few more nights. As they clung to one another beneath the setting sun of the previous day, they had both known it would wait no longer.
Ben sighed audibly as he slipped back into the present. The wisps of his breath curled away into the lingering darkness. The cold sting upon his cheek bones would soon force him to retreat to the waiting fireside. He patted the chest feathers of his stalwart companion apologetically before, at last, turning toward his quarters to obey the steady aching from his left shoulder. Today, he would officially be welcomed into the fighting ranks of the storied Elemental tradition of Hyperion, and still, he could wish for nothing else than the postponement of such a welcome. His heart was consumed elsewhere.
Once at his fireside table, basking in the glow of the ember coals and purple-hued blood of the mountain alike, Ben took up his symbol guide. This symbol was complex by its very design. As he scanned it again, for the tenth time, searching out any remaining details previously unnoticed, he was finally satisfied with his ability to master it within his mind's eye. The all too familiar itch at the fringes of his consciousness alerted him of the impending telepathic communication. Ben could scarcely recall the time when others could break freely into his mind with their thoughts. Since coming to Hyperion, his defenses had strengthened, like the rest of his classmates from the surface realm, such that now, none were permitted into his mind without his direct consent. The pleasant voice of a broadcaster entered his thoughts as he permitted it.
"Sir Meaks, Furion Roth summons you to the Parade Grounds immediately."
The communication cut off as abruptly as it began, and Ben focused the symbol, despite its complexity, with ease to his mind's eye. He let it dance about there while slowly unraveling the linen sling from around his neck and left forearm, before letting the symbol slip again from his consciousness. Though far from healed, he had decided that his first marshalling with the Elemental Battalions called for a show of strength. He would manage the pain to preserve his honor. As the sling slipped gently to the floor, Ben exited his quarters once more. Goran was waiting for him. Ben mounted, Goran thrust them aloft, and a brief moment held in the clutches of space and time later, he dismounted his mighty companion upon the grassy hill of Haven.
"Enjoy yourself, but don't stray too far. I'll return for you when I'm allowed to."
Ben ruffled the slate-grey feathers above Goran's golden left eye before he locked the Parade Ground's symbol firmly in the center of his mental vision. The rushing wind filled his ears as the corresponding, brilliant lights overran his vision. His destiny would indeed wait no longer.
The crisp air of the morning stuck briefly in his nostrils upon arrival. Automatically, Ben levitated away from the teleportation symbol before taking stock of his new surroundings so as not to disrupt the arrival of his brethren. When he reached the white, stone railing of the arrival platform, the slow smile of pride spread across his face. Arrayed before him, below the arrival platform, were the gathering Elemental Battalions in all their glory. Thousands of warriors, moving with grace and purpose amid the seemingly chaotic mass of humanity, were slowly bringing formation and discipline to the scene. Ben marveled at the display of his new kin. Heads of brilliantly-shaded hair rested upon shoulders adorned with the crisp military tunics of their Academies. Each subtle shift of the crowd produced a new painting of breathtaking color and form. Ben savored the moment.
A hundred yards to his right, the Council's platform rose up from the massive stone base of the Parade Grounds. A single, imposing, carved-stone seat stood before the immaculately crafted sculptures of Avan heads from each mighty lineage. Ben felt a tinge of regret that Goran was not with him to experience these hallowed grounds. His mighty companion was as deserving of these sights as Ben.
Ben forced himself away from the impressive landscape view and joined the procession of his fellow Elementals to the grounds below. Once he navigated the spiraling ramp to its base, the daunting spectacle that had appeared graceful from above took on a new light. Everywhere he looked, men and women levitated with what appeared to be random, listless directionality. Ben was helpless but to follow the ebb and flow of the human tide. He managed to locate a white head of hair, his kinsman from Plasmos, and latched onto the man visually, navigating the crowd in his wake. With painstaking precision, the man waded through the masses and, at last, settled shoulder-to-shoulder beside a young woman with sandy-blonde, white-streaked hair. Ben took up a position in silence on the man's other shoulder.
The minutes drifted by them upon the bobbing heads of the multitudes until, finally, the morning was still and the Battalions, arranged in long columns ten wide by one hundred long, were at rest. A single horn blast rent the air and Ben watched in awe as the columns stiffened and came to attention. The front ranks of each column ceased levitation and stood upon the cold, stone basin. The ranks behind them levitated only enough to see beyond the heads of their brethren in front. Each column followed suit until all one thousand members of each column had an unfettered view of the Council's platform.
Ben could see the tension in Furion Roth's facial features before the great man ever rose from his carved seat at the head of the mighty Falcon. A dull whisper was quickly inundating the gathered ranks. Ben could see no cause for alarm until his vision came to rest upon the empty fifth seat of the Council's platform. There was no mistaking the carved Raven's head that stood menacingly behind it. It was then that Ben understood the growing tension. Arrayed upon the Parade Grounds, before the empty seat of Viktor Tavares, was nothing but silent air. Ben scanned the crowd and realized there was not a single head of flame-red hair in attendance. The missing piece from the spectacle had eluded him until now.
Furion and his fellow Councilors had reached the edge of their platform. Before he could utter a word, the soft buzzing of the morning erupted into the raucous caws of a dozen, inky-black Ravens above the arrival platform. Ben's eyes naturally rose to meet the perceived threat and he could feel the waves of tension sweeping through the Battalions like wind through tall grass. The new arrivals dismounted and hastily made their way to the empty space allotted to the Elementals of Inverness. They formed a single rank and two. Furion addressed them with such anger in his voice that the formations returned instantly to silence.
"What is the meaning of this!?"
The Fire Elemental in the front rank's first position levitated a single pace forward and made his reply.
"My Lord Roth, with your permission, I am ordered to deliver this decree to you."
The man withdrew a sealed parchment from within his military tunic. Furion wordlessly motioned for the man to proceed and join the Council upon their platform. The entire assembly followed his progress with unblinking intensity until, kneeling before the Council, the red haired man surrendered the document. Furion tore open the seal and read its contents quickly before passing it to Lady Seidon of Fontana. He did not wait for the other Councilors to read its contents before addressing the kneeling Fire Elemental.
"Has Viktor gone mad? He will leave us defenseless at our most vulnerable time! Our unity is the only hope we have for survival."
Even from his vantage point in the midst of the Lightning Elemental column, Ben could see the kneeling man's body shaking beneath Furion's ire. Ben could not help but pity the messenger. When it became clear the stricken man would make no response, a new voice rose from the meager column of Fire Elementals. The voice sent a shiver of ice down Ben's spine.
"My father is far from without his mental faculties; I assure you. He believes that the time for deliberate action is upon us. He would fight our enemy upon their own ground rather than cower on the defensive for a single pass more. He, as you have read, extends the hospitality of Inverness to any that share his beliefs."
Furion's expression betrayed his utter frustration. The wry smile of a man at his wit's end replaced his scowl as he made his reply.
"To what pleasure do we owe your presence, Dominic? From the sound of things, a man such as you would like nothing more than to stand by your father's side as he wages this pointless crusade."
"And so I would, Sir, were it not for an oath sworn in a moment of foolhardy gratitude. Where Meaks goes, I must also go until such time as my debt is mercifully repaid. Those with me today have refused to turn their backs upon similar oaths that service to my father, at present, would require."
The Battalions erupted into chaos at Dominic's pronouncement. Such was the discord that Furion was forced to abandon the intended purpose of the gathering and issue emergency orders. He bellowed with a ferocity that Ben had not previously witnessed from his commander.
"All Sentinels and the contingent from Inverness will remain. The rest of you will return to your duty stations immediately. Dismissed!"
Ben followed the order mechanically. His mind was so bombarded by the events of the morning that he had been at Haven for some time before even realizing he had teleported. Goran was preening himself in the sunshine of the hill's crest. They had a long flight ahead of them and Ben was eager to get back to Plasmos should Furion need him. He had certainly wished his destiny might be delayed, but present circumstances were far from what he had meant. Ben could not help but shake his head in disbelief as he made for Goran's position. So much for wishing.
Ben had scarcely covered half the distance to Goran when the sky over Haven erupted with new arrivals. Tion, Hela, and Layla cast long shadows over the grassy slope as they descended. Ben felt his apprehension cracking before the prospect of seeing his dearest friends. When Hawk, Osprey, and Eagle, each in their turn, circled close enough to the hilltop, Robert, Kat, and Bree combat dismounted. Goran took to the sky excitedly in pursuit of the now rider-less Avans he had seldom seen since they were chicks. Such youthful exuberance, despite the new threats to their very existence, was enough to entice a much needed smile to Ben's face. They were truly magnificent beings; bred for combat and yet, utterly content at play.
"The man of the hour once again. Don't even think about trying to handle this one on your own, Ben. Your secret is out. Dominic Tavares is your soul mate."
The ridiculousness of Robert's statement was lost on no one as they came together for the first time in what seemed like months. Amid his own laughter, Ben shook Robert's hand enthusiastically.
"Good to see you too, Robert."
He embraced Kat gingerly given his mending bone and turned his attentions to Bree. As they stood facing one another, each trying to determine the appropriate greeting in present company, too long and far too awkward a moment passed. They settled on a brief embrace, the flush rising on both their faces. Kat and Robert regarded them both with suspicion before Kat, her hair delicately tinted with strands of navy, brought forth the matter at hand.
"So much for being assigned to our combat teams today. What are we supposed to do with twelve Fire Elementals for four thousand of the rest of us?"
Their collective good mood drifted away into the late morning sky upon her words. Without an entire branch of their military might, the Elementals of Hyperion were effectively crippled. The postponement, potentially indefinitely, of their personal assignments was the least of their problems now. The City of Hyperion was defenseless. The consequences of such a reality drove each of them to silence within the depths of their own, dark thoughts. Worse still, the brief reunion with his friends could only provide a temporary delay to the orders they had received. Ben was not likely to be missed from Plasmos, but his companions were expected to follow Furion's order promptly. They were forced to part before camaraderie could overcome the doubt inspired by the morning.
As Ben lay awake in his bedding that evening, the same darkness still lingered over him that had marred the gathering at Haven. He could not begin to unravel the knots of turmoil in his core. The presence of his friends had, for the first time, failed to ease his worry. If anything, the peril they all faced and the uncertainty of what lay ahead of them had magnified his discomfort. Then, of course, there was Bree. They had reached the understanding and intimacy he had longed for since the day they met. Ben simply could not see a way to prolong that happiness now. With resources inevitably stretched to the verge of breaking, what hope did he have of seeing her with any regularity? Haven was hours of flight from Plasmos, at best, and he and Bree were both duty bound to Hyperion now. They could not afford to be so far from the Academies without direct authority. Above all, the worst of it was that they were unlikely to get any closure on the subject. They could not share the pain of separation to help ease one another's burden. It was a new level of cruelty in a world where distance was a near irrelevancy that emotional isolation could be so profound. Ben could hardly find sleep for what remained of the cold, winter night upon Plasmos and his heart.
The summons came before first light broke the horizon. Master Braddock's voice had been customarily terse, but Ben felt more apprehensive than usual after a telepathic communication. Nevertheless, Ben had memorized the new symbol, one that was not in any guide he had thus far seen, and made the transition through time and space with Goran.
Their arrival into the still darkness was met with a considerable amount of activity below. Ben could only make out the silhouettes against the dim glow of dozens of burning torches, but the light was enough to know that hundreds of Avans were roosting upon the cloud surface below. Braddock's voice again entreated for entry into his thoughts.
"Ben, welcome to the stables of Plasmos. Land within the compound and I will meet you there."
Excerpted from Force of Gravity by J.J. Fox, Jim Driggs. Copyright © 2013 J.J. Fox. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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