The Luceri

*Note: events on both Lucero and Earth will be dated according to the same frame of reference: Eastern Standard Time on the United States’ Calendar.

It is uncertain, and generally considered unimportant amongst Luceri, exactly who founded or conceived of the clandestine group that would be the root of an entire new branch of the human condition; it is most commonly believed that the community known as the Luce–which took its name from the Latin word meaning “Light”– was founded by a small group of like-minded men, rather than a single individual, sometime around 600 C.E. What is also known is that the original group assembled as a secret society by the coastline of Mediterranean Africa, near the ruins of the once great city known as Carthage. At that time, a young man and self-styled prophet named Muhammad was expanding an empire in the region, based on a religious faith that came to be known as Islam. Islam’s rapidly expanding sphere of influence was in direct territorial and theological conflict with the predominantly Christian empires that ruled most of Europe. Christianity had been founded by another self-styled prophet born roughly seven hundred years prior; western Europe had long ago begun marking its calendars based on the supposed year of the prophet’s birth, hence the originally designated term Anno Domini, meaning “Year of our Lord” (In the late 1900s, as the Western Hemisphere became more ethnically and socially pluralistic, the term “C.E.”–meaning, interchangeably, Christian Era and Common Era–replaced “A.D.” as the dominant academic term of reference for the modern era). Though the two competing faiths were far more similar than different–they were, in fact, both loosely derived from the same ancient scripture–“Western Christendom” and “Islam” would eventually engage in military and territorial struggles throughout southern Europe and northern Africa. The ruling elite on each side tried to strategically isolate the other through campaigns of mythmaking and systematic violence; many of the Christian empires employed these tactics with added fervor, as it was their own established rule being threatened by Islam’s expansion. 600 C.E. was marked by seemingly incessant conflict on the small continent of Europe, as a handful of ethnic and regional groups began to assert political and military dominance over their many competitors. It was in this social and historical context that the Luce took form, as an organized attempt to take refuge from the strife, the poverty, and the real and impending violence of the medieval world.

The Luce were relatively small in number at first, comprised of men from various points around the Mediterranean region. Most were scholars or monks who had in some way become disenchanted with, or ostracized by, their fraternal orders; some were rogue warriors or wandering mercenaries who happened upon the group by chance. All were recruited individually, choosing to accept their invitations because they were drawn to the Luce philosophy.

The Luce had no official motto or creed, but as a group was fundamentally committed to escapism via transcendence: to physically, mentally and spiritually eclipsing the standard of the human condition as they knew it. Because the men who joined the Luce were generally disconnected (voluntarily or otherwise) from most other affiliations, they formed a remote encampment by the base of the Atlas Mountains near modern-day Algeria. Their membership was not limited to any national or ethnic origin; they expanded strictly by invitation. Their ranks–which, after ten years, numbered about sixty—included Romans, Celts, Ethiopians, Goths, Arabs and Berbers. It did not take long for the first women to gain entry; the Luce were egalitarian by belief, and they would eventually need to reproduce amongst themselves for the sake of secrecy and group longevity. They subsisted with goods and capital accumulated through mercenary work and craftsmanship; they were men and women of diverse talents and backgrounds who cross-pollinated their skills in keeping with their ethic of total self-development. Many of the Luce possessed uncommon combat skills, which they passed along to their fellow members, as the former monks passed along their advanced learning and meditative talents; all of this resulted in the development of a “warrior monk” mentality that combined a sense of scholarly asceticism with rigorous physical and combat training.

As their numbers increased, the Luce expanded into other settlements, always in minimally populated areas; by the year 900 they numbered in the hundreds and had moved their central encampment to the island of Malta. Their ranks included many nationalities, and their population was almost evenly divided between men and women. They were intent on maintaining a high standard of tolerance and pluralism, yet members were still selected with the greatest of care: whenever potential recruits were encountered, whether in a marketplace or at roadside, Luce returned to their encampments to discuss the matter with other members before disclosing the group’s existence. Most encampments–there were over a dozen by 950–had elected small committees for handling the admission of new members. Despite these measures, of course, sometimes a recruit turned out to be intolerant, violence-prone, or a security risk; these were dealt with on an individual basis, with force used only as an absolute last resort.

To stay abreast of the world’s events, young adult Luce were sent as individuals and small groups to join guilds and monasteries, as well as to seek apprenticeship with renowned scholars and craftsmen. This was often a hazardous journey, and many did not return, but many others returned after several years or decades with important historical, cultural and technological information to disseminate. Luce were not bound to return, but they were honor-bound to their vow of secrecy; most returned of their own free will after varying lengths of time. Over time, the Luce became well acquainted with seafaring, mathematics, cartography and weapons making; they were familiar with the political machinations and social undercurrents of the tumultuous period later known as the Middle or Dark Ages. A small percentage of Luce was able to successfully travel to, and learn from, such far-flung locations as China, the further reaches of mainland Europe and southern Africa, and the developing kingdoms in Scandinavia and Ireland. By the fourth century of their existence they had begun to develop an amalgamated dialect, which they only spoke in their own company and used for all of their documentation and accounting purposes. This dialect was Latin-based, with Semitic and many other influences, and the Luce began referring to their people and language as Luceri.

Through the course of the period known as the High Middle Ages, roughly 1000-1500 C.E., the Luceri maintained relative obscurity, their best defense against a world dominated by increasingly powerful and acquisitive European empires. For most of this time, the Luceri were scattered throughout northeastern Africa and southwestern Asia; their encampments stretched from Ethiopia to southern Turkey, with outposts on Malta and Sicily. Settlements on mainland Europe were generally avoided, as Europe’s population density was too high. In the less densely populated regions of what would eventually come to be called the Middle East, Luceri existed at a major cross-stream of culture, commerce and information; they benefited from proximity to Islamic and Byzantine cultural centers, while also exposed to southern African and western European scholarship and traditions. It was not feasible to build libraries, as this would have sacrificed the mobility that all of their encampments tried to maintain; nevertheless, they had gifted scribes who amassed incredible bodies of knowledge on topics ranging from algebra to seafaring. This knowledge, along with their high standard of physical development and conditioning, made them memorable to those with whom they troubled to speak at length; as such, they were the subject of local lore stretching across Europe, Africa and Asia. They often feigned illiteracy or commonness, yet in certain circumstances their outstanding training and exposure showed itself in their behavior or response patterns—so that even the less than worldly could recognize their distinctiveness.

Centuries of ethnic intermingling had rendered the majority of the Luceri too ethnically indeterminate, even in the more ethnically blurry regions of the Mediterranean, to blend unquestionably into most local populations in significant numbers; furthermore, their high standard of physical fitness was well ahead of their time and had to be concealed as carefully as their worldliness and literacy. It was inevitable that local populations would occasionally piece together their existence through anecdotal information, or draw conclusions from their variety of uncommon attributes; this sometimes led to suspicion or hostility among local populations. Like the Jews, Gypsies and others among Europe’s itinerant or landless populations, the Luceri were often blamed for incidents and catastrophes ranging from unsolved murders to calamitous weather. And while their ethic commanded mild-mannered interaction whenever possible, the Luceri were not afraid to defend themselves, their customs, or their secrecy when sufficiently prodded; in some places, the swiftness and force with which they did so served as a deterrent to further trouble from local bandits or hostile communities.

In terms of their own society, Luceri were advanced in policy as well as technological achievement. They were generally agnostic in their theological outlook: not atheistic, but committed to await sufficient evidence of a creator; yet due to their exposure to various spiritual and meditative disciplines, they were not strictly earthbound in their thinking. Since their inception, they had been an egalitarian people in terms of ethnicity and gender; it was their understanding, centuries ahead of most of the species, that extreme stratification was among other things a hindrance to social and scientific advancement. Suppressing the minds and capabilities of any significant portion of their already small population would set them back in their quest for higher collective understanding, a quest that had been the driving and unifying principle of Luceri society since its beginnings. Children were housed in the residence of their parents—who were united by recognized civil union rather than religious contract–but it was understood that they were molded by society as a whole; this remained true even as the Luceri fanned out into more distant territories. Children were taught self-reliance and intellectual curiosity from the point at which they were able to read. (Literacy was virtually total; progeny were taught in Luceri as well as the dominant tongue of their region of settlement.) Children conceived by accident were, almost without fail, adopted by some pair of Luceri, often those who had had difficulty conceiving children of their own. It was common for a Luceri man and woman to have one to three children together, and as their lifestyle was conducive to excellent health, they were able to safely have children later in life because they lived longer than did most people and were less given to illness or infirmity. Violent crime was nearly unheard of, and ten-member ad-hoc committees administered justice by decree at each Luceri outpost.

These social advances, and the resulting social stability, cleared the way for leaps in science and technology; Luceri mathematicians and early scientists were able to work, study and contemplate in relative peace, and they closely followed the scientific developments of the time. By the late 1600’s they were making significant practical and scientific improvements upon nearly every invention and discovery made in Europe and the Near East; by the early 1800’s they were far ahead of their outside contemporaries in most areas of scientific understanding. The basic laws of the physical world were discovered well before the likes of Max Planck publicized their findings: the first true ‘physicist’, though not recorded as such in world history, was a forty-two year old Luceri woman who traveled through the more remote regions of modern-day Syria. Similarly, Luceri science made advancements in the understanding of biology and jet propulsion–all in the middle third of the nineteenth century C.E.

By 1884–as the ruling powers of Europe were colluding to divide the entire planet into spheres of territorial, military end economic influence—there was a distinct branch of Luceri science dedicated to successfully leaving the planet.

In 1896, a cloistered group of Luceri scientists conducted successful rocket launches off the coasts of remote Pacific islands; the unoccupied projectiles were able to travel several miles over the ocean. By the turn of the 20th century, Luceri science was capable of propelling a vessel containing a living human being through space at well past the sound barrier, over the course of hundreds of miles. By this time, though testing still took place in the southern Pacific Rim, it was increasingly difficult to remain unnoticed. Most Luceri had left Western Europe, as population density had skyrocketed and cultural and ethnic persecution was increasingly difficult to avoid; the Luceri population at this time was roughly three hundred million, distributed throughout the Southern Hemisphere’s less densely populated areas, and their population had long ago become sufficiently large that they closed their ranks. Luceri lived roughly a decade longer than most of their contemporaries, and were uncommonly impressive in health and stature; in order not to stand out, they developed elaborate ruses to avoid suspicion. In the earlier years of their existence, they had posed as warrior classes, monastic orders, and itinerant ethnic tribes; as universities sprung up, they were able in isolated instances to erect permanent physical structures and residences and disguise them as centers of advanced learning. Of course, none of this was without hazard: the advancing military technology of the 1800s and 1900s made it easier for suspicious locals, aggressive tribes, and would-be conquerors to threaten their encampments. Occasionally, though not often, entire settlements were decimated in surprise attacks or large-scale raids. If a settlement were forced to move, it was generally the case that some would remain embedded in the local society, usually to gain valuable scientific knowledge or stay abreast of social and political movements. The Luceri were no longer as tolerant of those who left the fold; no clear policy was established, but sometimes it was determined that a threat to Luceri security and secrets had to be eliminated. This was a tacit understanding, not an openly issued threat.

Luceri were able to send a satellite into outer space by the year 1909. Within ten years, the first Luceri had set foot upon the Earth’s moon, and within another five Luceri scientists were able to discern that one of the moons of a neighboring planet was habitable by human beings. Luceri population, worldwide, was four hundred fifty million by 1930.

It was in 1931–as much of the world was mired in an economic tailspin called “The Great Depression”, and humankind was still recovering from the ravages of seemingly planet-wide warfare–that the first Luceri set foot on the sphere, less than half the size of Earth, that they would call Lucero. Over the course of the next thirty years, almost the entire worldwide Luceri population was shuttled over to Lucero. Some decided, for various reasons, to stay amongst the terrestrials; they were allowed to do so with the explicit understanding that breaches of Luceri secrecy were punishable by a quick and non-torturous death. As terrestrial technology advanced toward the ‘space age’, the Luceri disabled their satellites; they simply plummeted to the ground in remote areas of the globe, again becoming the stuff of myth and local folklore. Over the course of the next twenty years, the Luceri were able to replace their old satellites with newer models, which they were able to cloak from terrestrial detection; these new satellites were much more efficient providers of information and strategic intelligence than their predecessors.

Numbering one billion by the year 1970, the Luceri lived in a self-contained dome on Lucero; the dome covered an area roughly the size of the Pacific Ocean. The Luceri climate was regulated artificially, using an artificial sun that projected rays similar to those of Earth’s sun without its more harmful elements. The “sky” under the dome was artificially rendered a familiar shade of blue, yet there were no stars or other visible bodies in the sky. Superstructures just inside the perimeter of the dome projected intervals of moisture and wind, to the effect of a perpetually spring-like environment; artificially produced clouds were the source of intermittent rainfall that nourished the various forms of imported terrestrial trees and flora. All of this both decorated Lucero and allowed its citizens to breathe; it might have been more efficient to simply water the planet at regular intervals, but as the Luceri were raised on Earth it proved more comforting and psychologically healthy to have a more familiar natural environment. In the first several generations on Lucero, there were outbreaks of hysteria, hallucination and even psychosis as the Luceri–who were, despite their distinctive upbringing, still human–often found it difficult to adjust to a natural environment in many ways so unlike their own. A 365 day calendar year was maintained, and a 24-hour day was simulated by the brightening and dimming of the artificial sun; as it did not “rise”, “set” or travel through the sky, there was no need for time zones of any sort. The lack of a visible sunrise or sunset was somewhat offset by the pleasure many took in watching cloud patterns against the brightening or dimming sky, and the absence of dangerously inclement weather was welcomed by most. The first generation to be born on Lucero generally found their environment pleasant, and the overall lifestyle was seen as a welcome change from the secrecy and marginalization of their life on Earth.

The Luceri were ruled by a two hundred member council, known as the Reighe, chosen by popular vote from among their population every six years. Reighe members were subject to popular review in every third year, or halfway through each term of service; most of the time, these reviews took place without scandals or excessive controversy. The Reighe were usually among the most highly educated on Lucero; most were fluent in English, while French, Spanish and Arabic were slightly less common. Though there was a slight amount of social and educational stratification on Lucero, institutional corruption was exceedingly rare. The plentitude of resources–they had discovered a planet with a plentiful supply of water, as well as minerals and ores beneath its surface–and the comfortable ‘climate’ led to an agreeable disposition among the Luceri people, making interpersonal violence rare by most human standards. Justice was served by rotating ten member Reighe councils, each of whom served for six weeks’ time.

Luceri children were taught the major historical timelines of recorded terrestrial history; to Luceri children, terrestrials were depicted as the flawed progenitors of their own people, woefully lacking in perspective but to be respected and regarded as kin. The Luceri educational system was oriented heavily toward the physical sciences–including Earth science, in anticipation of a possible return–and philosophy. There was no prevailing religion on Lucero; there was little perceived need to speculate about their cosmic origins, though it was hoped that scientific discovery and philosophical examination would lead to a greater understanding of the cosmos and thereby their own makings. Certain small groups had taken it upon themselves to develop localized faith-based organizations, but as there was little political or environmental pressure to fall back on such defense mechanisms, membership in these groups hovered around one percent of all Luceri in total. There were no discernible ethnic or phenotypic minorities, and the Luceri state apparatus provided health care for all Luceri. Lucero maintained a highly regulated market economy, whose institutions had been gradually codified over several centuries. Occupations often seen as menial among human societies were recognized as necessary underpinnings of Luceri society, and as such were regarded with respect; people were treated according to the merits of their individual characteristics rather than what they did for their personal income or other superficial factors.

A visitor from nearly any nation on Earth would have viewed it as a utopian existence compared to the troubles of their own world; nonetheless, Luceri society was gradually fraying around its edges. Large numbers of people will not tend to think or behave monolithically, regardless of history or culture; given enough time or variables, people will separate in terms of opinion or behavior–sometimes along seemingly absurd lines. It was amidst this subtle fragmenting that many educated Luceri had begun to differ significantly on their ideas about their basic nature; it was in this intellectual environment that the Terra Project was born.

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