A semi-Humanoid race from the planet Benzar. Recent members of the United Federation of Planets, the Benzites are an unusual species who breathe an atmosphere that differs from M-class standard. There is a good deal of evidence to suggest that Benzites did not evolve naturally, but instead are the result of genetic engineering experiments conducted by an unknown but apparently powerful ancient civilization. This unknown race is, quite understandably, the basis of the modern Benzite religion.
Benzites are often shorter and physically weaker than the average Humanoid, but not exclusively. Their bodies are protected by a smooth, chitinous covering that ranges in colour from purplish-blue with tan streaks, through green-blue, to dusky, pale blue with glistening silver undertones. The head is bald and smooth, and possesses a prominent, fleshy brow and nasal lobe. Two catfish-like barbells protrude from the region above the upper lip, while another extends from each side of the nose. The Benzites refer to these barbells as “whiskers”. A Benzite’s ears are positioned high on the skull, and rise into points. Their hands feature two opposable thumbs, one on each side of the palm, with three fingers situated in between. Occasionally, webbing connects the fingers to a limited extent. This is one of several physiological details suggesting that the genetic experiments which gave rise to the Benzites used amphibians as a starting point.
Benzites breathe in a gaseous mixture heavy in chlorine, which is exhaled in the form of carbon trichloride. The gas also contains essential mineral salts and a lot of moisture. Benzites traditionally wore an artificial breathing apparatus, a form of vaporizer, when off of Benzar. They could survive without it for a limited time, but prolonged exposure to standard M-class atmospheres resulted in lung damage that would eventually prove fatal. In 2372, advances in medical technology allowed the Benzites to overcome this disadvantage. A series of genetic re-sequencing procedures allowed the Benzite body to make use of daily injections, and survive comfortably on far lower quantities of the mineral salts. The modifications also served to shield the lungs from damage, so long as the air was moist. Those who accepted the re-sequencing carry discreet moisteners, to ease them through occasions where the air is drier. At any rate, the alterations have strengthened the lungs considerably. This was a great boon to Benzites working offworld, removing the inconvenience of the vaporizer. The female below centre has undertaken the procedure, likely due to her career in Starfleet. It should be noted, though, that some Benzites refuse the re-sequencing and still utilize the breathers.
Benzite biology is unique among the races of the galaxy. Their blood is based on mercury and platinum, taking the form of a thick orange liquid when oxidized. A Benzite’s average body temperature is relatively cool, being several degrees lower than that of a Human or a Vulcan. Benzite cellular growth patterns are also unique; apparently a consequence of their engineered genome. Ironically, this particular quirk of their physiology appears to be the result of tampering by the Benzites themselves, not their Forebears. Following the horrors of the Organ Wars (discussed below), Benzite scientists altered their race’s genetic code to prevent organs from one person being transferred to another. This means it is now impossible to successfully implant foreign cells into an injured Benzite.
The race’s adaptation to high levels of atmospheric toxins grants them hardiness beyond their build, and a potent resistance to poison. They are capable of digesting a wide range of substances inedible to other species. Out of politeness, though, Benzites living offworld limit themselves to the default food of the aliens with whom they work. Some compromise by programming industrial replicators for a wide variety of mineral salts. These could not be produced in the food replicators, being toxic to other races, but most colonies or work sites are equipped with industrial models suitable for Benzite residents. Whatever they eat, the Benzites’ efficient digestion means they do not experience nausea.
Benzites are highly competitive, their personal actions and attainments reflecting not only on themselves, but on the geostructure which produced them. To maximise credit when achieving an objective, they typically prefer to work alone. They find failure deeply shameful, and may conceal the results of their work until they are sure they are right. Benzites prefer to act rather than react, and consider thoroughness a high virtue. Things that can be measured are good. Tightly defined, exacting processes breed success. Benzites living among other races must work to downplay these traits if they want to fit in effectively. Still, many respond to any and all contests with fanatic zeal, going all-out to win any available award. As a rule, Benzite Starfleet officers hunger for commendations, medals, and positive performance ratings.
Most Benzites are followers of a combination of philosophical teachings and statistical calculus collectively known as the Doctrine of Andragov. Named for the famous Benzite statesman who developed it, this behavioural code encourages hard work and personal discipline as a means of promoting worth, both the Benzite’s own and that of his community. To demonstrate the value of the groups with which they affiliate, Benzites compete peacefully to outdo their peers, with self-evaluation the central means of testing. Using the doctrine, Benzites list their personal objectives, both long and short term, on a regular basis, and rate themselves using a scoring system that calculates their level of success or failure. Their philosophy is almost an efficiency manual. This emphasis on measurable achievement should not be construed as a lack of emotion; Benzites care passionately about their scores and how they compare to those of other people. Under a strict interpretation of the Doctrine of Andragov only recently discarded, a Benzite takes his own life when his score reaches the statistically irredeemable -500, in an effort to redeem his geostructure for producing him. In recent years, the moral statistician Fathen convinced many with a counter-theory, teaching that no life is irredeemable. The suicide tenets within the Doctrine of Andragov are therefore under debate by the current generation of Benzites. This has not changed the basic principles of the Doctrine, however, and Benzites still ‘keep score’ on a daily basis, with principles of organization, efficiency, and objective evaluation that can give Bolian bureaucrats a headache.
Benzite spirituality centres on confidence. A typical Benzite truly believes that his geostructure is the finest on Benzar, and that Benzar is the ideal world of the galaxy. While other worlds may command greater political power, none compare to the brilliance of Benzar, nor can they aspire to. Far from being a thoughtless hubris, this confidence is a sober responsibility to every Benzite. They cannot afford to fail in life, for to do so would bring shame on themselves and their geostructure. When a decision must be made, a Benzite aims to examine all sides of that decision, thoroughly analyzing the problem, before announcing his decision as the only possible course of action. Consensus must be found by rigorously debating all possible options until the best is identified.
Life aboard Benzite spacecraft differs in terms of various protocols from life aboard Starfleet vessels. One Benzite regulation states “no officer on the deck of a Benzite ship is to report any unexplained occurrence until a full analysis and resolution has been made”. Reporting an unexplained or undetermined anomaly is considered to be improper; information should be useful or not provided at all. Reporting a problem but no solution is especially frowned upon. It often took new Benzite Starfleet officers some time to adapt upon Benzar’s entry into the Federation.
The Benzites practice marriage, like most Humanoids. However, due to the complexity of Benzite biology, discussed further below, marriage and family have nothing to do with reproduction. The people a Benzite breeds with are not those they spend their lives with, nor are the children in a family unit the biological offspring of the carers. To signify their marriage status, Benzites use pledge-stones, which are worn about the person. The pledge-stone is divided into halves, into which smaller stone shards are slotted. One half filled signifies the bearer has been approached, and should he or she accept they will then fill in the other half. Their partner will subsequently be given a stone for the first half in turn, and will acquire the second themselves. Because marriage has nothing to do with breeding, there have never been any gender-based restrictions on courtship; same-sex relationships were always as acceptable and common as heterosexual pairings.
Benzite reproduction makes use of birthing chambers left by the forebears. Into these chambers, newly gestated Benzites are placed for post-natal ‘fine tuning’, which is effectively the last stage of their birth. It is argued that Benzite babies, like certain animals on many worlds, are ‘born incomplete’ and require extra-uterine incubation to complete their genetic and physiological development. Without the birthing chambers, physicians would be unable to defeat the birth defects resulting from the toxicity of the Benzite atmosphere. Biomedical scientists point to the rare non-incubated Benzite child, and the overwhelmingly high instance of deformities and death in such children, as evidence of this. A side-effect of the process is that since each geostructure maintains and calibrates its own birthing chambers, Benzites from a given geostructure tend to ‘look alike’, with exactly the same facial structure, skin tone, and so on. Benzites have become used to cases of ‘mistaken identity’ when dealing with non-Benzites, and most are quite patient about explaining it away as a ‘family resemblance’.
Though genetic manipulation is technically frowned upon by the Federation, the use of birthing chambers is so wrapped in Benzite religion and medical science that an exception is made. The Federation Council has come to accept that there is an ingrained compulsion preventing Benzites from abusing the genetic modification abilities of the chambers. Rather than being utilized for needless change, the chambers are only used to remove defects that are either life-threatening or otherwise a clear handicap ‘built into’ the Benzite genome by the Forebears. It should be noted, though, that the above position, known simply as ‘The Benzite Compromise’, was not easily attained. It took nine years after the Benzites applied for membership for their world to be admitted, while the Council debated the birthing chambers. Eventually, it was realized that the Benzites turned away from genetic warfare and onto their current moral and social path simply through careful consideration. The Federation thus had little choice but to accept that the Benzite use of birthing chambers was guided by a moral code as ingrained in their society as the Vulcan Code of Surak, and no less profound or important. Since the incubated modifications apply to all Benzites, and do not elevate any individual above their fellows, and since the modifications are not frivolous and are completely part of Benzite religious and social norms, the use of the birthing chambers is accepted. Whispers still occur in the more distrustful factions of the Council, though, and Human representatives in particular remain suspicious, a consequence of the Earth Eugenics Wars.
For much of Benzite history, warfare between geostructures was rare. Population levels were always entirely controllable due to the artificial nature of Benzite births; thus there was never any pressure to exceed the agreed limits of a geostructure’s territory. Population could be carefully regulated in response to current conditions and available resources. Once the sixteen geostructures agreed to recognized boundaries they had little reason to try and expand past them. A thousand years before the rise of the Federation, however, the “Golden age” ended and violent wars broke out when it was discovered that a quirk of Benzite biology allowed any individual’s organs or limbs to be transplanted into another person, with no fear of rejection. In the resulting “Organ Wars”, geostructures attacked one another to capture victims for organ harvest. This practice was ended when scientists altered the birthing chambers so as to prevent transplantation being possible (as mentioned above). Peace was restored, but by this point, grudges and old feuds were enough to keep the geostructures mutually hostile. A second virulent outbreak of warfare occurred when birthing chamber scientists found ways to “improve” on Benzite anatomy, breeding warriors with armour plates, poison sacs, spiked knuckles, and other martial modifications. An arms race was the natural result, and it soon shifted into open conflict, with several less advanced geostructures teaming up to launch pre-emptive attacks on those who had perfected the new bio-augments. After two hundred years of mutually destructive warfare, the geostructures banned these procedures under pressure from thoroughly demoralized citizens. It was around this time, circa 1980, that Andragov developed his doctrine, leading the Benzite population into peaceful competition, with much of the “battle” being within oneself. Rather than fighting against other geostructures to prove the superiority of his own, the noble individual demonstrated national pride by testing himself, aspiring to live productively and thus prove worthy of his geostructure’s superior expectations. To ensure a definite end to open conflict, the unification of the 16 ‘structures soon followed, though the world-government proved naturally somewhat shaky at first.
Warp drive was invented in the 22nd century, and contact with the newly-formed United Federation of Planets was made soon afterwards. For many decades, the Benzites preferred a cordial but isolationist stance, trading with the Federation but never applying for membership. Over the years, however, as they began to extend deeper and deeper into space, the Benzites began considering the benefits of being part of a wider community. By the mid-2350s, the majority of Benzites were eager for membership, and Benzar applied for Federation protectorate status. Benzite officials and reporters began to be invited to functions within the Federation, and in 2364, the first Benzite citizen was admitted to Starfleet Academy (Mordock was not the first member of the species to join Starfleet, but was the first political Benzite cadet). At around the same time, Officer Exchange programs were initiated, allowing Starfleet officers to serve on Benzite ships, and vice versa, in order to promote better understanding of the different cultures, regulations, and behaviours. Following in Mordock’s footsteps, other Benzites enrolled in the Academy, until by the 2370s they were reasonably well represented within the ranks.