Author's Notes: So, a friend of mine recently made it abundantly clear that I reblog far too many Topher feels on tumblr (I'm helenofeddis) to be healthy for anyone involved. So of course I started posting more Topher feels. It culminated in a gif from her reading "let me die"... which opened up all sorts of new awful possibilites. Thus, this short fic.

"Let me die," Topher whispers, and it would have gone unheard if this new Harding didn't have augmented hearing. As it is, he hears it from across the room and over the ragged breaths of the woman the guards had brought in behind him.

The older man smiles dispassionately. "We can't do that, Dr. Brink. Have you made any progress?"

"I—yes, yes! Look." He begins shoving papers across the table haphazardly, several of them falling to the floor and drifting across the lab. The woman's head turns to follow one page's path; he sees it out of the corner of his eye but is so careful not to look directly at her, because they've started choosing women who look like Adelle and he can't take that.

Harding takes one of the papers and peruses it at length. Topher holds his breath, but without much hope that this time will be different. Maybe if he holds it long enough they won't have a choice but to let him slip away. Realization crosses Harding's face, though, and the game is up. "These are schematics for a phaser rifle. From Star Trek. I had a young nephew, Dr. Brink, you'll need to try harder than this." He rips the paper in two and takes the handgun offered by one of the guards. In a single motion it's pointed at the head of the woman, who sobs once.

This is why Harding is better than Ambrose, Topher thinks. Ambrose makes them talk first. Give their name, life story, loved ones—who they would leave behind. For some reason that even the boy god of all things neuro can't fathom, Ambrose hates him, whereas Harding only ever hated Adelle. All Harding wants from him is the answers he refuses to give.

In his more lucid moments, Topher knows how sick that is, that he has a favorite torturer.

The woman's eyes are fixed on him, he can feel it. She wants to understand who he is, what he could have done to save her life that he emphatically did not do. They all want to.

He puts his head in his hands and whispers again. "People die if I do or I don't," he says to himself. "They'll always die."

There's a gunshot, the sound of a body falling to the ground and being dragged away, and some tramping of feet. Then there's a slammed door and silence.

It takes two hours for the shaking in his hands to slow enough that he can begin constructing tomorrow's fabrication.