Topher decides he might as well see. It is his legacy, after all.
Boyd would try to stop him, but Boyd is long gone. Maybe he's wandering around the streets now, a mindless zombie (and they know now that the medicine the good doctor gave him won't help him much with that, won't help the slicing and dicing and the rage either and he's in trouble, should've listened and stayed home and safe with mommy where the rain won't get him). Or maybe not. Life's so uncertain, these days. It used to be all the same, simple-like. Make an imprint, send Echo off, watch Boyd worry, watch the engagement go wrong somehow, clean up the mess, watch Boyd bitch. It might not have been a comfortable existence, because everything had already started to go to hell, but even a small sense of stability was nice.
Compared to here, compared to now, that little bit of chaos seems like nothing (and of course compared to now all that seems like a nice carnival ride, he misses those, he thought so well on those and trapped in here he can barely think at all, and he tries to scribble on the walls and gets the ideas to come out, but they just hide and he seeks but he's bad at this game, can't find them no matter how hard he looks). Topher shakes his head, trying to dislodge the thought. Thinking about the past just upsets him, and Dr. Saunders has told him to try not to get too upset about anything. Apparently, all he needed to do to make her hate him less was to go into hysterics a couple of times.
Come to think of it, she should be trying to stop him too. For someone he used to call The Phantom, she's surprisingly easy to avoid.
The exits don't get used much anymore. Nobody wants to leave, and nobody is dumb enough to enter an abandoned looking building. For all they know, it might be a trap to wipe away their minds. And hey, they'd even be right! (Run, come on, run away, he's been shouting for them to ignore the call but no one listens, they just shush him and they need to listen, they could be next)
At least things can't get much worse, Topher muses. (later he laughs at himself, high and broken and he's so smart, sososo smart, why didn't he see it coming why and oh, the phone is ringing, don't answer don't answer don't)
Topher slips out easily. He knows all the codes. Aside from that, there's a bit of heavy lifting, but despite his geeky exterior, he's not a total wimp. He might freak out a bit at the idea of having a gun (and lucky lucky lucky him they stopped offering him one, and how ironic 'cause he'd like one, it'd be fun to play with and this equation he's working, he needs the gun, it might fix it, it's all he needs to make it all better, and she's saying no, it's not fair, please, please, the equation has to work it has to), but he can hold his own. Well enough. He's not dead yet, is he?
He steps out into the cool air. It bites at his exposed skin, like writhing snakes. For a moment he tries to brush them off, before he just crosses his arms and hugs himself.
Nice, cool L.A. air. Refreshing. Funny, he never used to want to take walks, back in the old days. Boyd did, probably to think about weighty things, like how they were all horrible, amoral monsters (he had never really believed them about that but he should have, really really should have, they were right, they had all been hiding under little children's beds just waiting to jump out except no one expected it, how sneaky, not even the kids knew it was coming). Dr. Saunders went with him sometimes, though whether it was because she wanted to get some air and think heavy thoughts, or because she wanted to get away from him, Topher never knew. Possibly both. Maybe she just wanted to spend time with Boyd.
Topher walks along the road, still under the concrete garage. He remembers when there used to be an endless supply of black vans here. Most of them have since been stolen, or driven off in a panic by some member of staff or another. Like Ivy. She freaked out and took off about eight months ago, and Topher hopes she's been smart enough to keep herself, well, herself.
He reaches the end, and raises his eyes from where they've been glued to the ground. He does it slowly. It's not that he's scared to look, exactly. Except that yes, it really is. Self-delusion isn't a good look for him, and it hasn't got much point anymore. No one but himself to delude by putting on a show, now that Boyd and Ivy and Dominic are gone, and he only does it out of habit now. Sometime, though, it's just too much effort to bother.
It's something he has to see, no matter how much he doesn't want to. And Topher isn't dumb, quite the opposite, so he knows he's a coward. He's not good at the whole bravery thing. But this is a different kind of bravery, the kind that probably won't end with him dead, and if that's the only kind he can manage, fine.
So he looks. Topher's not sure what he expected to see (death and death and more of the same, it's all that's left now, he's become pretty friendly with the world, death has, so nice of him, too bad he hates Topher and hasn't he helped him plenty over the years, why can't they just be friends?). It's been years since he's been outside, and the general landscape hasn't changed much. There's graffiti everywhere, but that's to be expected; the first reaction to chaos is to create even more. There's no one left to care about it enough to clean it up.
To the left, there's a pile of rubble where he distinctly remembers a building being. Nice. There're a couple of stray fires here and there, just dotting the landscape. An artistic touch. Topher approves. Really drives home the whole apocalypse thing (except the world hadn't ended yet back then, silly silly Topher, should've read more books and though of more things except for that, but really he's just one-note, good for not a lot except that, a one-note song, simple, maybe like what Boyd used to practice with, and he misses Boyd, Boyd with all his smooth calmness, maybe he could fix it).
Topher looks and looks, and thinks, So this is my life's work. Pretty impressive. He'd call his mom to tell her, but who knows if his mom even exists anymore. Using phones lately is dangerous, anyway. No one who isn't a total idiot would ever risk it.
"You shouldn't be out here," says a voice. Topher turns, and hugs himself tighter.
"Sneaking up on people isn't polite."
Dr. Saunders pushes a lock of hair behind her ear, and shrugs. "Sneaking out isn't exactly the epitome of propriety. I have the exit rigged to alert me whenever someone leaves or enters the building, you know."
Topher tries a smile, but the result is something faint and bleak, and after a moment he gives up. He shuffles his feet instead. "Right. All those computer skills came in handy. Good for you!"
"I'd applaud your foresight, but I think it would only make you angry."
"And you have a problem with that?"
"Lately, I don't think you need any more upsetting."
The both look out at the ruined city (and after he knows that it's the city that he created, the world that he built up, little stacks of toothpicks going upupup until there was nowhere to go but downdowndown, everything going all down to hell and burning up into nothing, and putting fires out isn't like they tell you, he's stopped and dropped and rolled, and all he ever accomplishes is falling into a pod, it doesn't help, nothing does). "I think I could do with a tiny bit more. I don't get terribly guilty, you know."
"Bullshit," she says, and the harshness in her voice sounds strange, coming from her. "You're so guilty it's killing you."
"What, you think you know me? I made you," he tells her, his words sharper than the cold. More wriggling snakes.
"Making me mad isn't going to make me go away."
"Was worth a try."
They both lean against the concrete, and Topher wonders how long until the sun rises (never, he knows now, it's never going to, it's going to be dark forever and how could he, putting out the sun, it was supposed to be impossible so good for him, except things are impossible for a reason so how could he).
Off in the distance, there's movement. Topher squints his eyes to see, and he feels something sick rolling in his stomach when he realizes it's a person. Shit.
"We should go inside," Dr. Saunders says abruptly, but Topher's already walking towards the figure. It's a bad idea, but according to all the evidence, Topher seems to be good at those. They're his specialty.
"Hello!" he says, a little loudly, when he gets within earshot.
There's no response, and Topher feels a horrible sinking feeling, like he's on the goddamn Titanic.
"Hey," he says, walking the rest of the way to reach them. It's a young man, mid-twenties, by the look of him. His face is blank as Topher grabs him by the shoulders. "Say something!" His voice is ragged and he might be screaming, maybe, but the man's not saying anything so Topher doesn't care. "Please, please, please talk." A Doll would have answered, but he's not even that. Just a body that can still walk and maybe talk, if it had reason to, and it doesn't. Even now, Topher can feel part of his brain working out what the difference is between this wipe and his own, the different memory blocks that must have been hit, and try as he might he can't get it to stop.
He doesn't realize he's on the ground until he feels the stinging in his hands, and the man doesn't even spare him a glance as he continues walking. Walking and walking until he can't anymore, and he can't even care enough to give his murderer a look. Topher chokes on what is maybe a sob.
"Topher!" Dr. Saunders is saying, but he isn't listening, she has nothing to say that can help him. "Look at me, Topher, don't do this." She grabs him by the arm and pulls him up, and he leans against her as she leads him back inside. Back to the Dollhouse, and how many people know that this little building was the start of it all? A great chain reaction, that, started off with just over twenty little buildings and now it's all over the world. Like a weed, except dandelions have got nothing on this.
"Raid," Topher declares, when they're almost back inside. "We need a freaking giant can of Raid, that's it. It'll fix everything."
Dr. Saunders looks at him, and her face is so scared that Topher feels a little frightened himself. Don't worry, he tells himself. Just find a way to fix it, and it'll all be alright.
The sun is rising behind them, but neither of them notice.