Tionisla (Rough Guide)
- Economic status: Average Industrial
- Technology level: 12
- Population: 5.2 billion Lizards
- Political status: Democracy
- Radius: 4646 km
- G: 0.42 standard
- Neighbors (7.0 LY or less): Xeesle, Zaonce, Isinor, Bemaera, Zaalela, Qutiri
“This world is very notable for its inhabitants’ ingrained shyness.”
Tionisla – the dead centre of the galaxy, ho ho. Death might be the Great Leveller, but this is one system where wealthy corpses still hold themselves above the common herd.
You’ll have seen it, if you’ve ever done the run: the Tionisla Orbital Graveyard, “Togy” to its friends, hanging there in solemn splendour between sun and planet. A galaxy of tombs and caskets, sepulchres and mausolea, monuments to past glories and dead heroes. Dead villains, too, truth be told, because it’s nothing more nor less than hard currency that gets you a spot in this cemetery halo now, and vice pays so much better than virtue in our bad old universe.
So what’s so special about this patch of vacuum, anyway? Ancient history, that’s what. Tionisla is where the Co-operative was born in bloodshed, where the TruHu fanatics were smashed at last, where the galaxy was saved for civilisation, long ago. The ancient battle-wrecks sanctified the site, and made it the chosen place of last repose for all the honoured dead. Then those who aspired to honour, in death if not in life, began to join them. Then came the bureaucracy, the funeral fees, and the profit motive, and now in our less valourous age the only qualification is cold cash. So it goes. It’s still a wonderful place, though. The hot yellow light from Tionisla’s star washes every grave and coffin-ship, and makes each one gleam like gold – until you see those special few which are gold: solid, pure, melting-butter gold, and you can’t ever have even the tiniest little slice of it. Because if you even look like you’re thinking about ripping off one of these rich stiffs, the graveyard guardians will fall on you like raptors on a rodent. Golden sunlight and pathological, do-not-fuck-with security: what more could a body ask for? But we’ll leave the dead to their gilded pleasures, and pass on down planetside.
The main shuttle drop is at Aa, on the eastern continent. On arrival you’ll be issued with your Alien Permit and a mask of your choice. All Tionislans wear masks in public, their heads completely encased in these baroque constructions. Each one is unique, crafted to the owner’s particular specifications, and each is capable of a staggering variety of mechanical transformations, controlled by movements of the jaw, neck and tongue, to express those emotions the wearer wishes to make public. The reptilian citizens of Tionisla are an intensely private people, and guard their true feelings closely. Someone’s mask might be swivelling its eyeballs in jovial good humour, while secretly its wearer’s wattles could be turning blue with rage – although, because of the conscious effort required to puppeteer a mask, Tionislans tend toward introspection and are not generally prone to emotional extremes. At least, not as far as I know.
Your own mask will come with instructions for a limited repertoire of conventional manoeuvres: polite enquiry; polite acceptance; polite refusal. It’s best not to experiment with the controls, really, unless you don’t mind walking around unconsciously announcing philosophical mirth, or furious appreciation for the warmth of your accommodation, or reproductive readiness tinged with melancholy for the demise of a distant but respected relative. Mask-management is a skill you could spend a lifetime trying to master.
It is, in fact, one of the only forms of public entertainment to be found on Tionisla. The audience stand quietly in front of a small curtained stage, and the two performers – never more, never less – poke their heads through slits in the taut crimson curtain. The audience ring their handbells, while the performers cause their masks to gurn and grimace at each other, flicking through a bizarre gamut of expressions with bewildering speed. When an individual audience member has seen enough, he or she tucks their handbell away and leaves the room. When the last observer has departed, the performance – presumably – ends. Frankly, as artforms go, it’s an acquired taste.
For an outworlder, Tionisla can be a lonely place. Few tourists ever come here, and although the inhabitants are formally happy to see you, they’re just as happy to see you go, too. If you like good company, noise, fun, excitement – go elsewhere. If you do find yourself starved of conversation, though, you can always take a trip to Morial and chat with the dead.
For a little over two hundred years now, the Orbital Graveyard Authority has offered this extra service to any of its patrons who wish to leave something more behind than just a well-dressed corpse in a shielded crypt, dangling forever in circumstellar space. For an extra charge, the deceased can have a sub-sentient recording of their mindstate stored in Morial’s vaults. Here their accumulated experiences, wisdom and (it has to be said) vanity is made available to their business partners, descendants and loved ones, and to the occasional morbidly curious tourist. The Authority doesn’t mind – apparently conversation helps keep the quantum processes fresh – and the dead can’t mind, being as they are mere recursive shadows of extinct personalities. The ones I spoke to tended to be a rather boastful bunch, puffed up with simulated pride, but fascinating, too, as historical source material if nothing else. Of course, tall tales abound of hidden treasures, secrets waiting to be revealed when the right question is asked, or the correct code-phrase is uttered; but if they’re true, I never hit the jackpot. Not for want of trying.
Then there is the night sky. The lambent lustre of the intricate Tionisla Chronicle Array lends a most particular individuality to the nighttime vista. It should be noted that the centrality of Tionisla to the news-gathering industry of Galaxy 1 and the antics of its practitioners quite belies the studied behaviour of the planetary inhabitants.
It’s a difficult planet to love, Tionisla. But the people are calm, the cities are clean and placid, and much of the architecture is soaringly beautiful if you don’t mind endless staircases. Finally, though, it is utterly unlike anywhere else across the eight sectors – and for the true enthusiast of other worlds, that’s all that matters.
|Pages in the Rough Guide to the Ooniverse.