Introducing Benji: A Gunnery Officer with a Hidden Rage
Updated: Dec 6, 2020
By far, my favorite part about creating Leviathans: Aromored Skies has been working on the story. These characters have come to life on their own, and while I write them, it can be like they're standing in front of me, telling me their life story. Ya, that's a bit cheesy, but eh. It's my role to faun over WW1 stories and as long as we're waiting for more gameplay to show off, I can share what I want.
I think Benji was one of the first characters I came up with. A WW1 Steampunk game needed a ridiculously strong looking chiseled veteran, right? Someone who embodied the stereotypical soldier, the man who ticks all the boxes and expectations of the pre-war eugenics militarist who saw the continuation of the nation through stuggle and purging of impure blood. However, I'm not one to be staisfied with reusing tropes.
As many eugenicists began to point out while the fields of France slaughtered the strong and weak indiscriminately , "Prowess in battle has no survival value... as regards the individual, and litle as regards the nation; for even the victorious nation, though surviving and dominating, multiplies from an inferior stock after the war" (Chambers, 196). That last bit might be quite an oof, but this is still coming from a group of people who insisted in telling mothers that the death of their child was for the greater continuation of the race. So lots of oof.
Ultimately, I want to show the tension in the very real cutlural discussion held during the war about the role eugenics should play in the nation. Eugenics is vile, and the hope is that Benji's story will outline that pounds of flesh do not stop a bullet, and moreso, that the body is not the only part of a soldier that can be harmed.
On another note, despite the uncanny resemblence to Sergeant Peacock from the Devils Brigade, the influence is entirely subliminal from some childhood viewing of the movie. I came across this picture only a few days ago whilst surfing Facebook and I was quite shocked. I guess tropes have to start somewhere.
So Who is Benji?
Lord Bellicost and Benji came across each other when, on a scorn filled walk one brisk evening, the elderly Lord came across a small warm pub and happened to look in. Staring too long into the doorway (as old men are prone to do) Lord Bellicost saw in astonishment Benji arm wrestle three men at once, win, proceed to fight the whole pub, win again, and then complete the meals left half finished by those on the ground. The prowess of course was impressive, but what truly did take Lord Bellicost’s eye was that Benji did all this while wearing a prosthetic wooden leg.
Lord Bellicost was immeditely infatuated with a romanticized story of soldiery in his head for how such a brute could have lost a leg and yet move so quickly. Without a second thought, he approached Benji, forced upon him his patronage, and insisted a promise of endorsement for the position of Deputy Lieutenant Governor. He never asked Benji if he wanted the post, let alone how he lost his leg, though it is doubtful Benji would have shared anyway.
Benji had been a career military man, having put nearly 15 years in while fighting with Highland Brigade, 2nd Battalion, also known as the Black Watch. The end of his formal service came after a fateful deployment in South Africa, a campaign that would put most of his comrades in a box. For a reason he can still not fathom, he not only survived the desert, the jungle, and the mountains of Transvaal, but the hellish return journey from the bottom of the globe to the top after sustaining his injuries. He had hardly slept from the sway of the ship (he absolutely hated the ocean), but those few moments he did pass out from exhaustion, he was also haunted by visions of the last several months: from arrives arrival amongst the clouds on a leviathan to watching his unit wiped out from an unimaginable enemy. After some time in a hospital, making a political ruckus over an incident in Second Boer War, and acquiring a boot from the military, Benji had been drifting from pub to pub before finding a new job at the hands of Lord Bellicost.
He served his post as Deputy Leuitenant Governor well, and with much praise. Lord Bellicost even, to the soldiers shagrin, referred to him as his "personal war-machine". When Lord Bellicost much later approached him to serve as a Gunnery officer on his personal flying airship, at first Benji refeused, but the Lord was persistant. "You could be a hero again," the old hunched Lord would say, "think of the glory, the fame, the redemption! Boy, by this time next year, Lord Kitchner himself will bow to you!" It was finally with the mention of the famous butcher that a fire lit again in Benji's eyes as he accepted the Lords proposition. Perhaps justice could still be found.
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