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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Copyright © 2024 Frost Giant Studios All rights reserved. No part of this novella may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in articles, reviews, wikis, and other Stormgate player resources. Stormgate and the Stormgate logo are trademarks of Frost Giant Studios, Inc. Published by Frost Giant Studios, Inc.

To those about to venture through the Stormgate…

It is an honor to have the opportunity to present this early peek into the narrative and characters of this new universe. This story will take you through the fifty years leading up to the opening moments of Stormgate–all told through the eyes of a uniquely unreliable protagonist.

I hope that as you experience the rise of the mad genius Clive Cullin, you will get a sense of the stories we hope to tell in the upcoming campaigns. At the heart of Stormgate beats a question: is unity possible in a divided universe?

This same question haunts Clive Cullin…and the answer he finds will inevitably lead all of Earth into war against the invasion of the indomitable Infernal Host.

Jack Bentele, February 2024


A silence falls throughout the Artifact Chamber. All eyes are locked onto the strange object that floats at the Chamber’s center. The Key. As the patterned, alien metal swirls and shifts around the bright light at the Key’s core, a dusting of snow drifts down from far above. No one can look away…

No one except for Dr. Clive Cullin.

After years spent examining the Key and trying to unlock the secrets within, the octahedral Artifact fills him with a deep resentment. Instead, he moves his gaze upward along the many stories of ice that enclose them all within the hidden laboratory. Upward, past the wires and sensors strung like dark spider webs across the frozen walls. All the way up to the distant night sky. The colors of the Aurora Borealis swirl. To Cullin, they look like a slow-moving vortex, as if the sky might soon split open and suck them all into the void–the priceless equipment and structures that fill his vast Arctic cavern, the hundreds of people under his command, and all evidence of Sigma 6…gone from the Earth forever.

Not gone, whispers the voice in his head. Not all of it.

It has taken years, but the Whisperer never surprises him anymore. Their thoughts are shared and within the hour…their destiny assured. Though Clive Cullin is known to his friends and fellow scientists as the one who may finally save them all from the Brink, it is not humanity that he serves. It is something else entirely.


Yes, Cullin’s own thoughts echo and blend with those of the Whisperer. Everything for her.

“Dr. Cullin, the array is prepped to receive influx.”

He issues a curt nod and an assistant switches on the massive field of energy capacitors on the Arctic surface. The calming and familiar hum seems to snap the other Sigma 6 staff out of their daze. Cullin towers above the rest on his command station overlooking the Key. He brushes away a stray strand of hair from his field of vision. He’s let it grow like a wild briar patch in the years since the last attempt on the Stormgate, and has noticed his skin become saggy and mottled in the mirror with each passing morning. His back aches, as long dormant pockets of pain emerge and bloom, diminishing him from the full six foot stature that had once made him stand out in a crowd.

The man I was when she first fell in love with me.

Yet these vain thoughts hold little weight for him now. Cullin understands that he is more than just a single human body amongst many. He is a nexus point, between past and future. He is this entire facility. The reason it exists. The bullet in its chamber. So Cullin takes it all in, these final moments. The Chamber’s sharp industrial edges clash with the natural ice into which they’ve molded their command center. A countdown timer begins on the holo-screens that illuminate Cullin and reflect off the texture of his electromagnetic clean suit.

“One hour until the ICME reaches the Earth’s magnetosphere.” Cullin looks down from his station at those gathered under his command. “Let’s make it count. Tonight…the universe has given us a second chance.”

With that, he descends and exits through the steel doors that lead back into the bowels of the facility. The staff scurry to their stations and make final preparations.

Look at that, speaks the Whisperer. They truly believe you.

As the end approaches, there’s only one face Cullin wants to see. The woman whom he loves so much. A love for which he’s willing to sacrifice the world.



Even in his earliest memories, half a century from the person he was now, Cullin always felt alone. He grew up in the tight academic quarters at the university where his parents taught, but Cullin kept to his even smaller bedroom. His parents always sat vigil by the television at night, as the bad news rolled in–getting worse everyday.

The newscasters, the politicians, the scientists, the conspiracy theorists—they called it the Brink. Finally, something they could all agree upon.

The anxiety constantly tugged at young Cullin’s mind, and by his teenage years he positively buzzed with it. His father saw this restless energy as intellect. Maybe it was. Either way, they never discussed the root of Cullin’s fear, only the possibilities of his genius.

“You waste away in that room. Real life goes on out there!” His father demanded much of him. “The world needs you.”

It wasn’t that Cullin didn’t believe his father. It was just that it all seemed so fruitless. Even if he were to uncover something no human had ever dreamed of, no one would listen. Everyday, chaos spread, entropy continued to exert its inexorable influence. Since its founding in 2040, the Sigma initiative had become humanity’s last shared hope. Two hundred nations, united to combat the Brink. Over three decades into its mission, though, and Sigma’s end goal still seemed impossible to Cullin. Technology surged forward, but the consequences of human history were too much to bear.

Extreme weather ravaged the globe–storms where before there was drought, water where once there was ice. Entire ecosystems perished overnight. Coastal regions from Florida to the Philippines were abandoned to the rising seas. A deadly scramble for resources was only held at bay by the opportunities that Sigma fostered across the world. The announcement of the Exodus Armada project, a proposed interstellar fleet that would fill its spacebound ranks through a worldwide lottery, ignited a new wave of optimism. Jobs. Purpose. Hope.

Cullin just called it propaganda. He figured that Sigma was like every other institution that he knew–inherently corrupt and made for the benefit of the wealthy donors and world leaders who led its council. While the member countries of the North American Federation, from Mexico all the way to Canada, spoke of the need for unity, there was still so much inequality being swept beneath the rug.

Skepticism over the global push for survival didn’t make him many friends, especially during graduate school. Everyone around him seemed obsessed with acquiring a Sigma research grant. All Cullin wanted was a quiet lab where he could be alone with his thoughts. His studies ran the gamut from genetics to quantum mechanics, as he forever chased the question of what laid at the heart of the universe. Uncertainty both taunted and compelled him. He decided that if time was truly running out, he would spend the rest of his days living the life of the mind. In the midst of preparing a dissertation on the possibilities inherent in quantum tunneling, Cullin’s days were consumed with obsessive thoughts about particles breaking impossible limits. It was like the rest of the world no longer existed.

All of that changed one smoggy autumn morning in 2097 as Cullin trekked to campus. Gone were any traces of fall on the west coast. Late summer fires continued to burn. A huge crowd gathered outside the Life Sciences building. That familiar feedback fuzz from the megaphone floated his way. Cullin tried to tune it out and keep his head down, but the voice he heard was startlingly clear and passionate.

The speaker stood on a makeshift podium above the crowd like some martyr pulled from a Renaissance painting. Despite the pieces of ash that drifted like snow in the air around her, the woman’s pale skin glowed like a beacon. Her words were as radiant and fiery as her hair, chaotically untamed. Cullin’s pace slowed. All of the thoughts that usually crowded his mind slowly burned away under the force of her speech.

“This is not a time to leave the solutions in other people’s hands! We don’t save the world unless we all save the world, together, consciously united. The greater good has always been some high ideal–but now it’s something much more concrete. It’s survival, through and through, for all of us.”

Cullin didn’t move until she was done and the entire audience vibrated with her energy. He tried to follow the flash of her red hair but lost her in the crowd. He trudged on to his lab, but couldn’t focus for the rest of the day. He asked around on campus until he found her name: Marilyn Sumner, a former international relations student who had recently traded in her classwork for activism.

What Cullin loved more than anything was that Marilyn was not part of any particular group. She refused to align herself with the Federation’s Pale Blue Council, constantly stymied by infighting and lobbyists as it was, and she rejected the more nihilistic Fifth Wave movement that sought the destruction of technological progress altogether. Marilyn’s entire ethos revolved around the idea that each of us were already intricately tied to world events. Her goal was to foster and promote ideas, not organizations. Some called her a wannabe folk hero. Cullin thought she might be a visionary.

He pushed out of his comfort zone and began attending any activist gatherings he could find, both on campus and in the city across the bay. Whenever he managed to spot her at an event, he couldn’t muster the courage to approach. While Cullin felt like a giant in his own mind when no one else was around, he shrank in public. Conversations flowed around him with ease, as everyone dissected the flaws of the world, so assured that they knew how to turn it around. All of his opinions dried up under the harsh light of others’ certainty. His most negative self emerged. What was even the point of debating with these people?

Cullin was in just such a dark mood the day that it finally happened. He stepped into a crowded warehouse space, filled with experimental art and loud music meant to drown out any existential despair that might have crept in from the city streets outside–an escape from the sirens and acid rain. After a dispiriting interaction with a fellow researcher who had just been given a massive infusion of cash from Sigma to fund the development of satellite technology that Cullin found utterly dystopian, he bumped right into her.

“Oh!” Marilyn spun around, her startled expression just as glowing as it was the first day he saw her. “I know you,” she said with a smile.

Cullin could only sputter in response. “Uh, we haven’t…I don’t think–”

“You’re Clive Cullin. We haven’t met, but I know your work. I’ve read it in the university’s science journal. And the op-ed you put out in the Daily. Your response to Sigma’s flawed approach to genetic engineering was fascinating. I’d never considered, what was your phrasing…”

“The runaway train effect. If we really want to improve humanity…let alone save it…”

“We don’t want to lose it along the way.”

Cullin studied her face. She was serious. Not taunting or teasing. Although everyone at this event was dying to speak with her and capture just a little bit of her magic, Marilyn’s attention was fully on him. “I saw you speak on campus a few weeks ago. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. For a long time, I thought the way I saw things was incompatible with everything going on in the world, but…”

“Still working on genetics?”

“I’ve switched my focus. Quantum mechanics.”

Ah. A man of many talents.”

Their conversation kept going, as evening set in and the gathering cleared out. Together, they braved the rain and walked until sunset was nearly upon them. Marilyn led Cullin up a hill at the park that overlooked the bay. “Come on, it’s not that steep!”

Cullin huffed and puffed but made it all the same. He found her sitting at the crest, exuding a calmness he wished he felt in himself. His heart was pounding. He collapsed next to her and they both began to laugh. The conversation quieted as the sun sank low.

“That’s my real north star. Every day, it rises and tells us not to give up.”

“It’s not a benevolent God,” Cullin said. “We’re constantly buffeted by its harsh energy. Dangerous solar winds. In all honesty, it’s been trying to eat away at us for eons. One day it’s going to succeed.”

“I took undergrad astrophysics too, but I don’t remember it including a unit on existentialism…”

Cullin blushed. “Perhaps I was being…dramatic.”

“Oh no, I like the poetry of it. But give our planet some credit. Our magnetic field is rather Shakespearean in its own right. The shield that protects us.”

“That’s correct,” Cullin replied, impressed. “A particularly strong one, at that.” Their eyes locked for a moment, before Cullin looked away. “I’m sorry for bringing the mood down. I can’t help myself sometimes.”

Marilyn nudged him. He looked at her. “It’s okay. Sometimes I need someone to bring me back down to earth.”

Cullin didn’t say it out loud–he couldn’t bear to–but he thought it all the same: I think I’ve always needed someone to lift me up from it.

“Way I see it, Clive…the sun created us. One day, it might just destroy us, if we don’t finish the job ourselves first. What really matters…is how we harness the hope that is bestowed upon us in the interim. Persistence, intelligence…love. We make our own shields.”

“Like our core that churns,” Cullin mused, picking up from her thoughts. “Molten iron into energy. Energy into our magnetosphere, extending far out into space. The sun-facing side of which shelters all known life in our lonely universe.”

“So what you’re saying,” Marilyn replied, an arch eyebrow raised, “is that the sun literally tests our metal?”

“Do puns count as poetry?”

She winked. “I rate them higher.”

Cullin surprised himself. It was an instantaneous reaction to her words, her face, the look in her eyes. He took hold of her hand, just as the sun vanished beneath the horizon. “Precarious stability. That’s all it is, really. All we’re given.”

“Precarious stability…” Marilyn mused on his phrasing. “That’s where we sit right now. On the edge of great failure. Or great success. I still think we’re capable of great things, Clive. It’s not all in the history books yet.”

“I’m beginning to think you’re onto something.”

And even in the encroaching darkness, they found one another and their lips met.


Cullin gripped the side of his seat as the mag-rail pulled into motion. This was his first time on the frictionless, high-speed line that connected every city on the North American Federation’s west coast to Sigma’s continental hub–Sigma Central, said to be a city in its own right. The country raced by outside his windows, faster than anything he’d ever seen.

The last few years had gone by at similar speed. Cullin and Marilyn’s work converged and fueled their deepening bond, as they united science and social activism. She encouraged him to speak at rallies, just as she did, spreading his ideas further than he ever thought possible. Her connections had now earned him an interview for a position at a prestigious new program known as Sigma 3. He’d nearly turned it down, but Marilyn refused to let him.

“This isn't selling out, Clive. This is buying in–the future needs your ideas. It needs you.

So there Cullin was, headed for the heart of all human progress on Earth–and he owed it all to Marilyn.

“So. What are you in for?” Lost in thought, Cullin hadn’t noticed the striking young man that had taken the seat next to him. His light brown skin spoke of a Middle Eastern or Latin background, but his sturdy presence spoke of one thing and one thing only: military.

Cullin once again felt like the nerd in the back of the classroom. He tried to hold the man’s gaze. “At the moment…bioengineering. An attempt to push the boundaries of what our bodies are capable of in the face of worsening conditions. At least, that’s what the recruiter told me. What about you?”

The man grinned. “They seem to like the way I handle a gun.”

“We need more guns, huh?”

“You never know. Someone needs to keep your big brain safe.”

Cullin relaxed. There was an easy charm to this guy, something earnest in him despite the tough times his dark brown eyes had clearly seen. “I’m Clive. Uh…Dr. Clive Cullin.”

“Julian.” The man took Cullin’s hand in his own, firm and assured. “Julian Nassar.” He leaned across Cullin, not a shy bone in his body, as he took in the view outside. “I’ve heard it kind of looks like the Emerald City. A big, chrome Emerald City, rising from the plains.”

“Yes. Full of the greatest minds of our generation. So they say.”

Julian leaned back in his seat and grinned, totally relaxed. “Sounds fun to me. So whatta you say, doc? Ready to save the world?”

Cullin couldn’t help but chuckle in response. Maybe Marilyn had been right. She usually was, after all. Maybe Sigma, and people like him, actually could make a difference. Maybe this truly was the beginning of something great.

Ready or not. Here I come.

Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5

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