Benny left Earth for his first mission shortly after Business’ election as president in early 2005. There were rumors about anti-Builder laws being considered by the government, but nothing had become official.
He came back five months later, in April of 2005. In July, he re-enrolled in Bricksburg Academy, intending to continue his doctoral studies, which he had begun before he left for space. The first of Business’ anti-Builder laws were passed later that month, marking the beginning of the eight and a half years of power.
Benny laid low for a long time. He had his schoolwork, he was still shaken by his accident, and he generally lived a withdrawn life. It was no secret that he was a Master Builder ( specifically, a Greaser ) but he also didn’t seem to do a lot of Building. He just made model planes, class projects, and other harmless things.
So for two years, nothing happened to him. He stayed in Bricksburg. And he got to watch anti-Builder sentiment growing by leaps and bounds in the public, and he was increasingly restricted by the laws.
In 2006, the registration of all MBs became mandatory. Benny, thinking this ridiculous, refused. That was his first brush with the law - although not with GCBC. He was met at the door to his apartment by police, and was taken to a government building where they sat him down and explained, very carefully, as though he weren’t one of the brightest students in all of Bricksburg Academy, why it was essential to society and his own protection for him to register. Then he was presented with a choice: refuse to be registered and be arrested, then forcibly put into the system, or to agree to be registered then.
He walked out of the building with his newly-printed identification card, staring at the photo on it, feeling as dead inside as he looked in the picture.
Life continued. But now he had a curfew. Now he had a little card with his name and classification on it that burned in his pocket.
In 2007, education reforms were passed. Children were separated from their friends and parents. High schools had special ‘reeducation’ classes for MB students. And just three months before his thesis was due, Benny - and all the other Builders in doctoral / masters / higher education programs - were kicked out of their programs.
This sparked protests. And protests sparked the use of violent force by the police. At the end of the first night, the crowd that had gathered outside the Bricksburg Academy administration had been dispersed, beaten, or scared off. Those who weren’t arrested then and there had their information taken down, and were sent home knowing that the police weren’t after them now, but they would be in a few days.
That night, Benny’s uncle, Shen, came to his apartment, and together they ran away. They left everything behind. Border guards and high, near-impenetrable walls made it impossible to just leave Bricksburg, especially since Benny and Shen were now both on the police’s watch list, and any attempt to flee the city would’ve been seen as suspicious and would have been grounds for arrest.
So they did their best to disappear.
Once on the run, the days started to become erratic, unpredictable. For a time, Benny lived on the streets, hiding with other Builders in sewers and alleys or with MB supports in safe houses. Shen made it out first, then a few weeks later, Benny followed. His hope was to make it back out to Cape Space however he could - but he never made it that far. He ended up in a dusty MB refugee camp in the desert for a time, repairing trucks and building pipe lines, then bounced from one camp to another, fixing things wherever he could, making himself useful. Benny visited huge, comfortable camps like CCL, and tiny two-house refuges with MBs packed into the attic and basement. He never settled down. He and the other Greasers were too valuable not to share. He spent four years like that.
Shen, at this time, was in the forests nicknamed ‘Middle Zealand’. He quickly proved himself useful to the administrators there, and was eventually transferred to the safest of the MB hideouts, CCL. He pulled a few strings and got Benny transferred there, too. You can see more about that here. He stayed there from 2011 up until GCBC’s raid there in 2014.
But Benny wasn’t really a dashing hero. He didn’t jump in and save people from lightning raids. He saved them in quieter ways - by making sure they had water, supplies, transportation, and ways to communicate with the rebel MB government that was slowly being established.
He has his share of stories about what he calls his ‘John Wayne phase’, where he drove his bashed-up Mustang from one side of the country to the other. He had his share of fights. He’s no stranger to scrounging for food, to sleeping on the earth beneath the stars, to being ready to hide himself any minute should police helicopters come by. And he had his share of brief relationships and affairs along the way. There were people he befriended, people he hated, and there were many times when there was no one else around at all.
He doesn’t tell people about those four years unless they ask. But every so often he’ll say something odd. Mention a name that makes his smile falter. Pull out an old dusty photograph or two. Or he’ll stop and look up at the sky, and say something about how much clearer you can see the stars when you’re out on the open road. ‘That was the only really beautiful thing I had for a while,’ he’ll say. ‘Those stars, I mean.’ And then he’ll move on, like nothing happened at all.