“Unearthly Hues of Cyan”

Originally appearing with The Evening Theatre in June of 2018, this post is a slightly reworked “Unearthly Hues of Cyan”.

The extraction of helium – 3 from Uranus was entirely automated, leaving Emily Rockwood too much time to think.
Along with two other technicians, Rockwood was assigned to the observation and recovery station that lazily orbited the seventh planet of the solar system. Aside from a few daily tasks and the rare repair of a drone or probe, there was little responsibility for the station crew. 

A single transmission to Earth took three hours – with another three hours necessarily for even the most immediate reply – preventing the technicians from regular contact with loved ones. Rockwood received few communications, but she assumed her family didn’t want to distract her from her responsibilities with frivolous gossip and announcements.

The other two technicians were not the social sort.

John Terry, an older man near the end of his spacefaring career, hardly spoke. He genuinely seemed more machine than human.

Tyler Donaldson, the station commander, was a company crank through and through. Every dull word that came out of his mouth seemed read from an invisible script.

Even the casual intimacy between crew members that defined so many other postings was unusually absent with this assignment.

Rockwood often lounged in the common, a small rectangular room that housed the extent of entertainment and exercise equipment available. Windows stretched from floor to ceiling along one wall, allowing visitors the opportunity to glimpse a robotic miner zipping back and forth between the station and the massive cyan orb below.

Whenever Rockwood wasn’t on duty, there was little else to do but sleep, eat, or bath. These activities were always performed in the bluish glow of the host planet. Even if she tried to exercise or download a briefing from Earth, Uranus loomed in her peripheral vision. The common was a comfortable space though, and she found herself occasionally dozing there as opposed to her quarters.

When she had first arrived at the station, she really wasn’t able to discern any features in the cold, dead atmosphere that loomed beyond.

However, as the months passed, her eyes became more familiar with the bland world, and she believed she could detect the faintest white swirls or occasional darker patches. These rare and fleeting dark spots were closer in shade to the egg of a robin than anything else. 

Terry and Donaldson rarely disturbed Rockwood during her visits to the common. Both men seemed content to remain in quarters or in the maintenance bay. Her fellow technicians only concerned themselves with the the various droids and probes that slowly sucked away the lifeblood of the planet.

The cyan and white swirls of Uranus became even more distinct with time. Rockwood assumed this change was a result of the extraction process. The darker patches of the planet gradually grew more obvious, too. She shared this observation with Donaldson, but he didn’t seem to notice or care.

“I have a job to do,” the commander had told her, “and so do you.”

During her lonely stretches of personal time, Rockwood found herself scanning the sphere for those darker regions. These strange discolorations were more apparent with every viewing and seemed to be taking certain shapes.

Donaldson refused to acknowledge the bizarre changes in the atmosphere of Uranus. Rockwood attempted to bring this up during routine conversation, but the station commander only repeated his usual rhetoric about the importance of appropriate rest and recreation on the station.

“Adequate sleep allows for absolute safety,” the commander had said.

Despite his dismissal, Rockwood continued her study of the planet. 

Within a few days, great eye sockets, a gaping nasal opening, and a mouth fixed in a jagged grin appeared within the swirling gases. This inhuman manifestation had coalesced from the darkest cyan hues present in the atmosphere. 

There was no doubt the expression was threatening and directed at the station. Mankind had attacked this icy world, and now the planet desired to retaliate. 

Rockwood wondered if the others knew about this obvious sentience. 

The answer quickly rushed into her mind.

Of course this extraterrestrial intelligence was known to Earth!

She didn’t doubt the helium-3 extraction process was a cover to allow for the study of the entity possessing the planet. She quickly decided Terry was an android, programmed to do whatever bidding Donaldson requested. She knew that Donaldson was very much aware of the conspiracy and that he would do anything to stop her from interfering.

Emily Rockwood selected for this mission because she was probably unexpected to possess much gumption rushed for the emergency escape craft. She locked herself inside, disabled the autopilot, and ignited the engine. A garbled, confused voice crackled over the transmitter. This was undoubtedly Donaldson trying to stop her. 

Rockwood! Reengage the autopilot!”

He was too late.

He had radically underestimated her. 

Rockwood manually guided the craft toward the skeletal face, which had only recently gained a deep demonic voice. She ignored the various warnings about pressure that flashed on the display in front of her, and she easily dodged a few probes that rushed to stop her. These crafts were obviously tapped into whatever programming directed the mechanical John Terry.  

Emily Rockwood decided she would sacrifice herself to save mankind from whatever evil menace lurked deep within the cyan clouds of Uranus. The emergency craft was an unfailing missile strike in her hands. 

She only hoped her real story may one day be known.

Author: joshuajscully

That’s my picture up there. I’m not totally sure why I look so angry. I may be thinking about how much I hated the Crypt Keeper as a child. I grew up faithfully watching reruns of The Twilight Zone and Tales from the Crypt. Unfortunately, I missed the boat in terms of writing for either of those programs. I do consider both to have been wildly influential when I think back to my earliest thoughts about becoming an author and I’m grateful my parents let me watch those shows as a kid (although there were probably some nights early in my childhood my mother wished she hadn’t let me watch those shows). If you’re familiar with either program, then you know what genres are my focus. I thoroughly enjoy science fiction, suspense, the twist ending, and some horror or supernatural elements as well. Honestly, when I was a kid the Crypt Keeper scared the hell out of me. As an adult, I’ve really learned to embrace the puns. Historical fiction is a favorite of mine as well, and the root of that is shared with my profession. I am an educator by trade, and I teach American History. I consider some of the best writing I’ve ever done to be within the realm of historical fiction and I really enjoy saturating my mind in the research end of those projects. I would make the argument that storytelling is in my blood. Even my sister mulled, very briefly (about 45 minutes), launching a career as a screenwriter! My last name is one of those Irish (and, apparently, formally Manx) ones with a wonderfully researched history -“the story-teller’s descendant”. On of the first day of school each year, I do share that “my name is Mr. Scully, and that rhymes with Kelly”, just so I do not hear the myriad of mispronunciations on the first day. Several years ago, I started a blog similar to this one to highlight my middle years as a teacher. If that aspect of my life is of any interest to you at all, you can still find that blog online. During my summers, I really have time to pursue my writing projects and this blog will highlight some of that work. My first attempts to sit down and write extensively occurred when I was 15, but only a few years ago did I make setting time aside to write a priority. I’ve also benefited wildly over the years from many willing readers among my family and friends. The direction and feedback from those individuals has been invaluable. Outside the world of the written word, I am an educator, basketball coach, lecturer, and (very, very occasionally) a landscaper. I have only ever known Western Pennsylvania as my home. Although I love a good novel, I am absolutely unable to resist the power of the short story. The latter is really what I hope to be remembered for one day.

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