The Ibs are a sapient, spacefaring species from the world known as Flatland, roughly fifty-three thousand light years from Earth. Their homeworld is shrouded by a dense layer of clouds, and orbits a white F-class star. They are one of the four original members of the Commonwealth of Planets, along with the Waldahudin, Humans and Dolphins.
The Ibs are highly extraordinary in appearance, having wheels for locomotion and long retractable tentacles. They communicate by displaying luminous signals, although they are capable of hearing and transmitting sounds. The natural lifespan of an Ib is exactly 641 Earth years, after which their crystalline brains reach a maximum information storage capacity and can no longer control the vital functions of the body.
The word "Ib" was coined as an acronym of "integrated bioentity", as each member of the species is actually a combination of seven symbiotic organisms: pod, pump, two wheels, frame, bundle and web.
The pod is a watermelon-like structure at the center of the Ib body which houses a saturated solution in which the crystals that form the creature's principal brain grow. The pump is a bluish tissue surrounding the pod with tubular projections hanging down, and handles the functions of ingestion, digestion, breathing and excretion. The frame is a saddle-shaped grey growth that anchors the other elements and provides axles for the two large wheels, which are circular organisms covered in a shield of quartz. The bundle consists of sixteen copper-colored tentacles normally retracted in front of the pump. The web, finally, is a sensor net covering the pump, pod and upper frame, and containing several eyes and bioluminescent dots.
Curiously, Ibs have no membranes separating their cells, and the rough analogue to a cell in their bodies is called an "organelle cluster". Their circulatory system is based on a gravity feed, therefore being exposed to a zero gravity environment is fatal for them. Sleep is unknown to them.
Culture and society
Ibs are a non-religious and asexual race. Contrasting with the Waldahudin, they are normally highly diplomatic and polite in their manners. Their sense of humor is curious in that they seemingly never get tired of a joke: you can tell them the same one over and over and they will keep finding it genuinely just as funny as if it was the first time they heard it. Despite having such long lives, the Ibs are extremely sensitive about wasting time, and believe wasting someone else's time to be the greatest offence possible.
- Starplex, by Robert J. Sawyer (1996)