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Beyond The Brink, chapter 4

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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.


Ever since they unearthed the alien chestplate, the Whisperer had gone quiet.

The truth was…Cullin missed the voice. It no longer disturbed him. The Whisperer was his link to Marilyn and the possibility of her cure. Nothing else mattered now. So he shot questions into the dark of his mind, waiting for answers in response.

Have I done something wrong? Are we moving off track?

He tried not to let desperation infect these questions but he knew he was an open book to the Whisperer either way. He spent hours down in the dig, now fully fenced off since they realized the enormity of their discovery. Cullin examined the armor from every angle. It was the closest thing that Sigma 6 had to a fully intact piece–except for the blackened blast scar that marred it…where the heart might be found.

So you’re humanoid, Cullin mused. Some of you, at least.

The Whisperer still remained silent.

Cullin suspected it had something to do with their latest study, conducted by Lilla. The material itself was not fully inorganic, despite its metallic appearance.

“There are organic signatures here,” Lilla told him as they leaned over her latest scan. “Less like this Artifact was constructed…and more that it was grown.”

That made it unique amongst all of the Artifacts they had so far uncovered. It was stable, in the quantum sense, and lacked the aesthetic appearance of the Salish object and the fragments from Canada and Mexico. Like it belonged to another species entirely, Cullin probed, hoping for clarity from the Whisperer–clarity that never arrived.

The intricacies of the chestplate made it seem as ancient and beautiful as the birth of the cosmos. To Cullin’s eye, there was no doubt that these markings constituted some sort of language. They were not the same as the glyphs on the other Artifacts, or even the walls of the temple that once contained the chestplate. What the markings most called to mind were the esoteric scrolls of alchemy. Cullin, of course, gave no credence to such lines of outdated thought, but was familiar with them as many physicists of the past had been obsessed with that false science–a mixture of precise composition and fantastic illustration.

These markings almost appear like some kind of…spell…

Even the biggest doubters amongst Sigma 6 could no longer deny it–they now possessed the biggest secret in human history. Based on the initial negotiations that created Sigma 6, this information did not filter out widely. Essentially, the only people who knew that the project even existed were Cullin, Preston Swift, the top brass at Central, and his fifty-some field scientific and security team members. In a way, over the past seven months as they carefully excavated the chestplate, Sigma 6 had become a makeshift family.

Except Cullin didn’t trust a single one of them. Especially not Dr. Edgar Fletcher.

“Ah, Dr. Cullin! I didn’t expect to find you down here.” The lanky and hyperactive Fletcher scrambled down the metal staircase into the pit of the digsite. “Dreaming of its secrets like me?”

It wasn’t that Fletcher seemed like some sort of scoundrel. He would certainly take the secrets of Sigma 6 to the grave. However, he was too interested. That was what worried Cullin. Fletcher was just as restless to uncover the truth as Cullin was–but Cullin knew that the full truth of these discoveries was not something humanity would understand. “I do my best thinking at night.”

Fletcher rubbed his chin as if Cullin had uttered some deep insight. Cullin turned away to hide his irritation. “I’ve been doing some thinking as well…”

Of course you have…

“It seems obvious that there is a stark difference between this piece and the Salish object, let alone the fragments from our previous digs. It makes me wonder about the story of these beings…it seems like it was a violent one. In fact, I’ve begun to consider that it was not just one alien species that came to our ancient world…but two."

Cullin felt his irritation curdle to anger–with an intensity that surprised him. Like the anger arose…from someone else within. “Speculation, Dr. Fletcher. I believe speculation is the death of science.”

“Surely not!” He seemed offended at the proposition. “Is it not the imagination that leads us onward?”

Imagination? No. I prefer to let my ideas come to me out of hard data.” Cullin brushed past the frazzled archaeologist as he climbed back up to the camp. “Perhaps some patience is needed?”

He left Dr. Fletcher with his dangerous thoughts and went to bed. Sleep eluded him…as it had for many months now. Only Julian and Lilla seemed to truly notice the growing darkness beneath Cullin’s eyes. They attributed it to stress. They weren’t wrong–they just misdiagnosed the source. After tossing and turning for what felt like hours, Cullin finally felt his unconscious take hold. He drifted off…

It was not mere violence!

The fury of the Whisperer’s tenor jolted Cullin back to the sounds of the Amazon night.

It was glory! It was conquest!


Taken from us…

The images of the chestplate swirled in Cullin’s mind, intrusive thoughts that would not abate. He saw flashes of fire, smoke, and the sound of two heartbeats in sync…

You recognize it, don’t you? Cullin posited. The armor.

The Whisperer did not respond. Cullin thought it had retreated once again. But then, finally, it spoke:

It’s something I could never forget.

Cullin did not need any more context. He felt it in the words themselves. Regret. Heartbreak. Hope, eternal. And love.

It seemed even the Whisperer knew the tortures of love.


The Allied States of the Southern Hemisphere wanted them gone. Negotiations between their council and Sigma had broken down, and the dig site was caught in the crossfire. Cullin made sure that the remnants of the temple were packed away and shipped to Swift. As for the piece of armor, he and the Whisperer decided that they would arrange for its storage in a more secretive location–a far flung Sigma site where prying eyes wouldn’t wander. They had three days to pack up and go…but where?

The Whisperer held no more clues for Cullin to follow. It seemed even their knowledge had its limits.

I chose you not as my puppet, Cullin. I chose you for your mind. So use it.

It was so simple, he couldn’t believe he hadn’t thought of it before–but sometimes the best breakthroughs happen just like that.

It took some doing, but Cullin managed to convince Preston to ship the Salish object to the Amazon–still flickering within its quantum containment unit. Lilla and Fletcher helped him prepare the experiment, though he refused to explain himself fully until he was ready. He chased his thread of intuition like a white rabbit–sustained only by a deep faith in his conception of the world.

When the time came, the two other scientists helped Cullin to lower the Salish object’s containment unit into a tank of water. An array of phonon sensors were directed at the tank and hooked into their most powerful processor in the camp. Lilla caught on first. “Vibrations. Waves and particles. Quantum noise…”

Now Fletcher got the idea. “We may be able to match the infrasound of the Salish object…”

“With any other objects in resonance with it across the globe. While we can’t pierce too deeply into the quantum world, with the right tools–and minds–we can listen to it."

Cullin turned on the processor. Lilla watched their digital map of the world, as the system calibrated to the subaural sounds issuing from the Salish object. While Cullin and his team couldn’t hear it, they saw the waves that emanated through the water in the tank. “Now bring it up,” Cullin motioned to Lilla. “Slowly.”

By turning a knob, Lilla tuned into and amplified the frequency in their makeshift lab. They felt it before they heard anything–a rattling through their bones. The low sonics of the infrasound were manipulated and deciphered through the processor until it reached the aural range. At first, the tones reminded Cullin of whale song. Preston would like that. But with each turn of the dial, the sounds became more crystalline and pure.

Like the voice of some distant angel.

“It’s…striking,” Fletcher said. “The undercurrent of the universe…singing for us.”

“Let’s see if our bard sings alone.” Cullin nodded to Lilla. “Link into the Sigma-wide network. Cover as much area as possible.”

“Nothing yet…”

Cullin pushed Lilla away from the controls and did it himself, widening their search to the furthest possible limits. “We have no time to waste, Lilla.”

“This is a sensitive process, we have to be cautious–!”

Lilla’s words cut off. A blinking light appeared on the digital map. Then another, and another. Resonating frequencies. Matching signals. Artifacts, in quantum flux, all across the planet. Joined together, these hidden sounds coalesced into an angelic choir.

“My God…” Fletcher whispered.

Cullin could only grin. “Didn’t take you for a religious man, Dr. Fletcher. I don’t know about God, but it certainly seems as if we’ve tuned into his choir. Every Artifact with the same origin as the Salish object are and have always been linked in subaural harmony. And now we know exactly where they are.”

“But Clive,” Lilla tentatively spoke up. “Where is any of this really leading us? Look at these frequencies. We could be looking at small fragments, incomplete pieces, more of this wild goose chase…”

As if in answer to her words, the volume of the sound increased tenfold. More matching signals appeared, all gathered together. A large field of infrasound was issuing out from one distinct location…

Cullin leaned in close, and felt the Whisperer’s attention sharpen along with his own. “Hope the two of you enjoy the cold. It seems we’re headed north.”

A week later, their transport ships touched down. Cullin stepped out into the Arctic freeze. He puffed into his gloved hands but the polar wind sucked it away before any warmth could reach him.

What do you think? Cullin asked.

Hmmm…The Whisperer purred, tickling his neurons. This land was largely overlooked during our campaigns upon this wretched planet…if it was anywhere, it would be here…

But what is it? Can’t you tell me?! This would be much easier if you didn’t keep secrets from me.

You will know…when it is time to know.

It was no use. No matter what the Whisperer claimed, Cullin could not shake the feeling that he was just a tool, after all. It took an entire year to prepare the Arctic dig. Sigma 4 drills were shipped north at great expense, to the point that Central threatened to shut down Cullin’s wild goose chase. In turn, Cullin cut a deal. Knowing just how corrupt Sigma upper ranks were, he offered to dedicate space within the future research base to a bioengineering division. This time, he would open up his full catalog of genetic code–including his long-hidden files on the Adrenal-Rush Genome set.

“You want to create the perfect soldier? I have the blueprint, ready to go."

What did it matter, anyway? No super soldier would be able to stand against what was coming…as far as Cullin was concerned, the top brass could shove it and take it with them on their exodus to the stars.

Whatever it took, he was getting this done. While Preston brought in more members of Sigma 6 to chase some of the other leads around the world drummed up by the quantum infrasound tracker–now deemed the Salish Harmonics–Cullin himself and the Whisperer would not be satisfied with any minor discovery. They were seeking something specific. The Whisperer was convinced that it was somewhere below this ice.

I seek what was hidden from me. I have always known it would be somewhere remote, but this world is vast and your species’ knowledge of it is so limited…so for this, I do owe you, Cullin. A great deal.

So this artifact…it could be the doorway to your world?

No. The lock that seals the door. My kind…we call it…the Suppressor.

Finally, Cullin was beginning to unlock this inscrutable being and its intentions. Doorway, lock, Suppressor…whatever the term, it mattered not to him. His goal was singular. Marilyn. The cure. Whatever it took.

And so it came to pass–hundreds of feet below the surface, the driver of the Sigma 4 drill called for an immediate halt. The drill head pierced through what seemed to be a hollow cavern within the ice. Cullin ordered a special team sent down to finish digging by hand, Julian at the helm. They were equipped with tuning devices that would allow the team to listen to the infrasound of the hidden Artifact as they probed the depths.

“Careful,” Lilla whispered to Julian as the team prepped. Amara, bundled in a heavy winter coat, gripped at Julian’s legs. Cullin overheard the couple and couldn’t help but eavesdrop. The intimacy between them…

Illusion, Cullin. A feeling between two beings is nothing without a greater purpose. That is what made you and your woman the pair you are. These two…

Still have each other. And Amara, too. That shut the voice up. Cullin was bothered at the Whisperer’s insinuation. Like it understood who he was. That it might be right.

Suddenly, Lilla’s eyes caught his own. He looked away, embarrassed at having been caught out like that. Ever since they had arrived in the Arctic, Lilla had kept her distance from Cullin…and though he couldn’t be certain of it, he thought that Lilla had instructed her young daughter to do the same. It made him feel like an outcast in his own operation. The fact that Julian seemed oblivious of it only made it worse--

“All right, Clive!” As if in response to his own paranoid musings, Julian called out to him with exuberance and warmth. “Shall we spelunk?”

The rest of the Sigma 6 staff watched as the dig team rappelled down into the darkness of the icy well. Once they were out of sight, the surface team then gathered around a bank of monitors and listened to the increasing volume of the buried Artifact’s inhuman, quantum choir…like voices drawing them onward, deeper, closer…

“The song…” Amara marveled. “It’s so pretty.”

Lilla smiled at her daughter, failing to completely bury her own nerves. “And Daddy’s going to see what’s making it!”

Finally, the radio crackled. It was Julian. “Got it in sight. But it’s not a cavern. More like a pocket…the Artifact’s here. Biggest one we’ve ever seen. And it’s definitely active.” Julian painted a portrait for them: it was an octahedron, twelve feet tall and six wide, shaped with shifting plates that constantly moved and morphed into different geometric patterns. Within this protective barrier, a core of energy shone out. The heat generated by that energy melted the ice directly around the object so that it hung suspended in the air, cradled within this small pocket of space for centuries.

“Lilla…” Julian’s voice came in through the radio. “It’s a miracle. Just wait ‘til Amara gets a look at this…”

Cullin cut him short. “Return to the surface. No one touches this until I get a look.”

Until I do, spoke the Whisperer.

When Cullin rappelled down and first beheld it, their thoughts were the same. This is it. This is the lock. Cullin blinked to break his gaze away from the mesmerizing movement of the octahedron. Unlike the other resonating Artifacts, this one was not in quantum flux. It was fully present, activated, and performing its only task–sealing this world away from another.

You have done it, Cullin. You have found it. The Suppressor. Now…we must destroy it.

And so, at the dawn of his team’s second year in the north, Sigma Polar was built around the Suppressor’s pit. Their drills moved through the frozen ground, tireless, hollowing out a burrow that Sigma 6 filled with billions in high-end equipment: a residential wing, bioengineering labs, and beneath the Artifact Chamber, a reactor system that kept them all alive in this inhospitable land.


Not the Suppressor. Not a lock. He kept its true name to himself.

So Cullin told his team to call it the Key. “The primary goal of our work here at Sigma Polar is to ensure that one day…we figure out what kind of door it opens.”

He found the nuance that lined up their findings so far with a false story of hope. “The material of the Key matches that of the Salish object and the other quantum objects–not like the piece we uncovered in the Amazon. Yet the Key itself is not in quantum flux. Why is that?”

“This isn’t just a fragment,” Dr. Fletcher mused. “It’s a preserved, active system.”

Exactly.” Cullin tossed the ever-curious Fletcher a bone. “I believe that it was protected and hidden away for a reason: for us to find it. And use it.” Simply put, the Key was a quantum resonator. All that was needed now was an amplification of its dormant energy. From there, Cullin theorized that a portal to another world would open. “The Key currently seems to exist in a state of equilibrium, conserving its energy. So let’s give it a boost…and see if it unlocks our doorway to the future.” Little did his team know, but the Suppressor was already fully operational and functioning as designed. The Whisperer assured him of that. Cullin’s supercharge was not going to be a boost–but a destructive force that would finally end the Suppressor’s centuries as guardian of the Earth.

First, they went nuclear. With the reactor directly beneath the Artifact Chamber, Cullin built an emitter to channel concentrated energy into the Suppressor. They ran it until the heat levels rose dangerously high and the ice walls of the pit began to melt. Julian had to pull Cullin off the controls.

“What the hell are you doing, doc?”

Cullin pushed away his disappointment. “Sorry. I thought…”

“Remember. It’s not just you down here.” Julian left it unspoken. My family. My daughter.

Cullin reminded himself that he needed to move carefully now. He was close. He couldn’t lose control now. Each attempt would cost them a year, at least. Patience was required.

For the next test, Cullin took precautions. An insulated box of amplifiers was built around the Suppressor. With the flick of a switch, Cullin blasted it with sonic waves at the highest pressure possible. The team couldn’t hear the contained sound, but they felt it–shaking the ice around them. Julian gave Cullin a look and he shut it down. Lilla checked the system. “Nothing. No reaction at all.”

They moved onto kinetic energy, pummeling the Suppressor with a chimera built from spare parts of a few Sigma drills and jet engines. Nothing.

“Thermal, then.” With Cullin’s orders, millions in funding went into motion. Preston Swift kept it coming but it was clear–the top brass wouldn’t tolerate this for much longer.

They’re remembering their previous opinion of me–a bad investment. Tell me what it’s made of! You must know something–!

You believe I would hold that back?! On the edge of everything I’ve spent centuries seeking?! The fury of the Whisperer shook him. This was not made by my kind…but another.

Cullin walked the empty halls of the bioengineering division after midnight. He entered the cryochamber. All tanks empty, for future use…all except for one. Cullin approached it and laid his hand against the cold glass. The face of his wife, eyes closed, at peace. Not alive. Not dead.


Behind him, the doors opened. Julian rushed inside. “This thermal test is too far, doc. You know it. The only thing we might find out is how much stress this facility can take–”

“So we give up? You think we’ll stumble across another Artifact like this ever again?”

“Is it worth our lives?”

Cullin spun on Julian in anger. “Isn’t that what we’re fighting for? Isn’t that the purpose of all this unity and hope? Do people truly believe we can earn our future without sacrifice?”

“How heavy must our sacrifice be? Both of us…we’ve given much to this fight. My family…Lilla and I have taken away any chance that Amara might have of a normal life.”

“She’s no normal girl. Neither are her parents.”

Julian couldn’t argue and Cullin knew it. The older Amara got, the more curious and impetuous she became. It was a regular occurrence to find her holed away in some forbidden wing of the facility, taking apart a robot to see how it worked or leading Major Barclay on a chase to track her down. “No. She’s not. Perhaps none of us were ever destined for a normal life.” Julian looked between Cullin and the frozen Marilyn, pained with sympathy. “But what if…what if we deserved the chance for some happiness of our own? Let’s say we gave it our best shot here. You can focus on Marilyn. If anyone can save her, and the others hit by that damn bug…it’s you. Lilla will help, and I’ll be there, and we leave saving the earth to those brainiacs building the Exodus Armada.”

“Julian.” Cullin stepped up to his friend. Eye-to-eye. “I hired you for your gun. Not your ideas. You want to go? Go. But I’m not leaving this place until I’ve done it.”

For a moment, Cullin thought all that coiled violence within Julian might finally explode…but Julian turned and walked away. “You know I’m right.” The doors slammed behind him.

He is. Cullin couldn’t deny the truth. Whatever’s holding the Suppressor together…we don’t have the power it takes…not on this planet.

The Whisperer held silent. Perhaps it had given up on him too. But then he heard another voice in his head. From days gone. From a better time–sunset, on a hill overlooking the bay, moments before he first kissed the woman he loved. Cullin gazed back down upon Marilyn and listened to the past.

So tell me. What makes our magnetic field so special?

The idea arrived fully formed. A vision. The answer. Like destiny. Like a prophecy fulfilled.

In that singular moment, Project Stormgate was born.

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 5

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