Isinor (Rough Guide)
- Economic status: Poor Agricultural
- Technology level: 7
- Population: 3.7 billion Harmless Slimy Frogs
- Political status: Confederacy
- Radius: 6191 km
- G: 0.95 standard
- Neighbors (7.0 LY or less): Xeesle, Aronar, Ensoreus, Ontiat, Tionisla, Zaonce, Bemaera, Zaalela, Qutiri
“This world is very fabled for its unusual oceans.”
If you’re planning a trip to Isinor, take an umbrella. And a cagoule. And sufficient waders for all your motile limbs. And another cagoule. Isinor is wet. Despite the overwhelming dampness, Isinor’s so-called “oceans” would probably only rate as large lakes and small seas on many worlds. It’s just that there are so many of them. Tens of thousands of them, in fact, separated by marshy swathes of low-lying land studded with ponds and criss-crossed by a plashy webwork of streams, brooks, burns, becks, rivulets, rills and ditches. There’s very little on Isinor that’s not under water, on water, or right next to water. St Standing, Isinor’s principal continental landmass, is so small that one could gallop a gyrospider across it in just a few hours. Even so, it serves as the diplomatic and trading centre for the entire planet as well as the main shuttle drop. It’s either that or come down in a Moray.
St Standing is a pleasant little island, ringed with numerous black-sand wormuckeries, whose warm spicy smells linger in the mizzly air and provide an added welcome to the visitor. If the boats are in you can buy a box of wormucks straight from the scoop for just a few Sels, and eat them wriggling fresh, sitting on a gently rotting bollard in the evening mist as the greasy water slops and slaps beneath the jetty. It’s a good way to ease yourself into the planet’s atmosphere. Even with all the hectic activity in the system, where scores of Navy ships hustle through the lanes and buzz around the orbiting Sector Command station, Isinor itself remains a relaxed old world.
If you’ve got a specific destination in mind, then you’ll likely need to charter a skiff or flitter. Consult the Locator’s Office to find out where your destination happens to be at the time and plan your trip accordingly. If you’re footloose though just take a stroll along to Bandy Bay and see what towns are currently tied up there.
There are few geographically permanent settlements on Isinor: most of the inhabitants live in small floating townships, built on great soggy undulating mats of reeds and oxwood. These drift around the placid seas beneath a higgelty thatch of masts and sails, towing their puggy traps and nests of bidi rice, propelled by gentle winds and stately gyres and currents. If all else fails, the townspeople can always get out and push.
Isinorians spend a lot of time in the water – as you might expect, being amphibians – and this has a direct link to those famous “unusual oceans”. It’s because of the body slime. These skin secretions contain a stable blend of tailored ribosomes, neuropeptides and mnemonic emulsifiers which continually seep off into the surrounding environment. Isinorians, quite literally, sweat memory. It’s a unique evolutionary adaptation to their extremely short sentient lifespans. The average Isinorian takes around two years to develop from an egg to a full adult; after reaching maturity, they can expect to live for perhaps another fifteen or sixteen standard years at most. But because they are constantly bathed in a wash of biochemical remembrances and impressions, their awareness is not of a short, swift, singular existence but rather one of a punctuated series of recollections which can stretch back for centuries, as memories are absorbed, processed and oozed back out again into the world. Even the presapient tadpoles, immersed in the experiences of their ancestors, can look at you with ancient eyes, ripe with the knowledge of the ages.
They swim in a huge collective past, the people of Isinor. Perhaps this is why the future obsesses them: “the great un-done”, they call it, “the veil of unknowing”. No village is complete without a seer or soothsayer, and usually more than one. The fact that these prophets seldom agree with each other, and even more rarely with actual events, does not bother the Isinorians. They expect the actual future to be indeterminate; it’s the sheer quantity of potential futures which they find so fascinating.
A passion for the future has made gambling an everyday pastime on Isinor. They gamble with everything. This is reflected even in their cuisine; no meal is complete without a serving of up-and-down cakes, often called “Isinorian Fortune Cookies” by offworlders. These delicate little shells of fried bidi flour can contain practically anything: spiced drubmeat, freeberry chutney, three-day-old wormucks, mud, grass, gravel, offcuts of phoxpher hide – anything. It’s considered impolite to refuse your share from the communal bowl. It’s also considered impolite to shake your cake, or to hold it up to the light, before biting into it. In my experience though it’s very unusual for an up-and-down cake to contain anything dangerously noxious, and spittoons are always provided.
Some years ago Isinorians were enthusiastic players in the sector’s Futures market. At the height of the bubble almost three-quarters of their planetary GDP was tied up in offworld speculations. But the escalation of the Thargoid war brought about a slump in large-scale trade; the resulting bank crashes hit Isinor hard, and the Sel, once a rival to the Legeesh Lotch, dropped through the floor. You can’t eat up-and-down cakes every day without learning to shrug at misfortune, though. At least the economic collapse, and the consequent rock-bottom orbital fees – combined of course with Isinor’s strategic location – made the system the obvious choice to host a Navy Sector Command station.
The memory of that financial disaster has not lessened the Isinorians’ mania for games of chance one whit. They’ll bet on anything: the weight of a puggy, the duration of a breeze, the amount of rainfall in the next five minutes. They play conventional games, too – Fox in a Box, Triple Whip, Texeonis Fold ’Em, and just about anything else – but the great game, wholly native to Isinor, is of course Four-Way Pellery. Four-Way Pellery is regarded by many gambling aficionados as the ultimate test of luck and skill, and the annual planetary championships can draw gamblers from across the sector and beyond. To date only one offworlder – Chexsin Cherzin, doyenne of the notorious hells of Isence – has ever come close to winning the title, reaching the final eight in 3139. She comes back, though, every year, cheerfully losing time after time, just for the pleasure of matching wits with the Isinorian masters.
It’s said that if you swim in the seas of Isinor, you’ll never forget your stay – and that Isinor will never forget you. It’s just an old frog’s tale, really; the mnemonic slime is peculiar to Isinorian physiology, and no other species has the necessary dermal uptake mechanisms to tap into that rich soup of memories. But the waters are warm, and pleasant, and largely devoid of dangerous predators. And you never know: sometimes, waking, I have the oddest feeling that I remember something, something from long ago, that happened to someone else, far away... and then the yelping alarm drags me into consciousness, the cabin lights come up, and – gone. But I’ve never forgotten Isinor, and I doubt I ever will.
|Pages in the Rough Guide to the Ooniverse.