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Shoot the Builder

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"You see that? That's a Bentley Mark XII. They gave one to me, one to Steven Spielberg, then they shot the guy who made it!"
Successmanship 101 Teacher, The Simpsons

So you've created your ultimate weapon of terror/fortress of doom/super-secret thing. One problem: somebody had to build/design this thing. What happens if they talk or grow a conscience? Simple solution: have them all killed! Your secrets will be safe and s/he can't build another one for any rivals, and if done to a particularly naive engineer, you just acquired their services for free!

Of course, you have to hope there are No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup to ruin your scheme and lower the Uniqueness Value of your weapon / fortress. Or the fact that an engineer/architect even a little bit savvy probably sees this trope coming and, by dint of the engineering skill the Big Bad recruited them for in the first place, will often have a nasty Faustian Rebellion prepped for a boss seeking to betray their builders.

Subtrope of You Have Outlived Your Usefulness. Similar to Mook Depletion for the aforementioned 'no backup' problem. See also Always Need What You Gave Up for the same reason.


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    Anime And Manga 
  • Part of Franky's backstory in One Piece. His mentor Tom built the ship used by the Pirate King, and was killed in part due to guilt by association, and in part due to hoping that talent wouldn't be used by pirates again. Franky survived the same fate, and eventually became a pirate.
  • In Shaman King, a daimyo ordered the samurai Amidamaru to kill his best friend Mosuke, so that he would never forge a blade greater than the one he presented to the daimyo. The two of them decided to rebel against the Daimyo, and Mosuke set about creating the greatest sword of his life, but he was unable to get the blade to Amidamaru in time and he was overwhelmed by the sheer number of the daimyo's men and killed, with Mosuke being executed shortly after.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • KGBeast uses his new Arm Cannon to kill the Arms Dealer who built it. This seems to be motivated by KGBeast not wanting to pay the guy rather than out of a desire for secrecy, given how the murder alerts the police about the Arm Cannon faster.
    • Attempted but averted in Batman: Streets of Gotham. Jenna Duffy, a.k.a. the Carpenter, is a minor recurring villain whose specialty is renovating supervillain lairs. She is hired to renovate and booby-trap a theater by a mad film buff calling himself the Director, who intends to sell video footage of the traps killing Batman — the Carpenter wholly intends to finish her job and leave before Batman inevitably foils the Director, but finds out that he plans to kill her too. She goes off-script, tips off Batman, and uses her handiwork to incapacitate members of The Director's gang, even managing to convince Batman she had been kidnapped and strongarmed into working for him.
    • The Joker had an entire roomful of deadly toys built for Batman in the story "The Joker's Rumpus Room". Once they were finished, the first thing he did was kill elderly toymaker Pepetto for knowing too much.
  • Green Arrow: Ollie's Stalker with a Crush Cupid murdered her hairdresser after she got a really good haircut so that no one else could have hair that good.
  • Recurring Iron Man villain Killer Shrike attempts to do this to Gadgeteer Genius and villain arms maker the Tinkerer after he upgrades Shrike's suit. The Tinkerer, being used to dealing with the worst scum Marvel has to offer, is too savvy to fall for it, and has built-in fail-safes that let him disable any weapon he has made, in case anyone would be stupid enough to try this trope on him.
  • Downplayed cruelly in Nikolai Dante. The Tsar has a massive monument of his own visage built in New Moscow, which was paid for by a raise in the tribute from all of the other dynasties. He has the architects who designed it blinded so that they may never top this achievement.
  • The Punisher
    • In The Punisher: The End, the executives who caused World War III had the engineer who built their survival bunker falsely incarcerated instead of just killing him. Evidently, they never expected him to tell his cellmate, and never anticipated that his cellmate would be the Punisher.
    • A Punisher series annual story involves Frank barging into a mob meeting where a weapons engineer presents a mobster with "The Preacher" — a prototype super-pistol that has the capacity to fire any available pistol cartridge on the market (it's implied that he was strong-armed into building the gun, as well). The mobster is impressed with the engineer's work and casually kills him before telling his mooks that once he mass-produces the Preacher, he will have total control of the weapons black market.
  • Spider-Man C-List Fodder rogue The Fly does a spur-of-the-moment version of this when he opportunistically seizes the builder's work. He gets his powers when he's on the run from the police and finds a scientist named Stillwell working on a chemical formula that will create a meta human with animal characteristics. The Fly forces Stillwell to use it on him, then kills the scientist.
  • The comic version of Watchmen has the experts who made the fake alien killed via a bomb on their boat. And then, the Evil Plan involved a deadly pyramid of killers that will kill the previous killers so no one could connect the deaths.

    Film — Animated 
  • Goat Story - Old Prague Legends: Downplayed. After the mayor finds out that Master Hanish is making plans to build another clock for someone else, he has Master Hanish's eyes cut out so he can't build any more clocks.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Adventures of Pluto Nash: Rex Crater kills the doctor who cloned him. Her assistant was left alive, but doesn't know that much.
  • Played with in Avengers: Infinity War. Thanos forces King Eitri and his dwarves to make the Infinity Gauntlet for him, then kills them all leaving Eitri the Sole Survivor. But first he makes Eitri put his hands in molten metal so he can't forge weapons against him. "Your life is yours," he said. "But your hands... Your hands are mine alone." Thor points out that it's his knowledge that's important, and so helps him forge another weapon to take down Thanos.
  • In The Dark Knight Rises, Bane kidnaps Dr. Leonid Pavel and forces him to modify the fusion reactor which he built for Wayne Enterprises into a bomb. Bane presents his plan to the people of Gotham in the city stadium and breaks the Doctor's neck after he confirms that he's the only one with the knowledge to defuse it.
  • Downplayed in Firefox and the novel it's based on. The scientists building the Cool Plane are destined for a gulag once it's finished, partially because they're dissidents being forced to build it in the first place. They are all killed when they stage an uprising as a diversion for Gant to steal the plane.
  • The Goonies: In the Backstory, One-Eyed Willy's treasure-filled pirate ship was trapped inside a grotto after a naval battle. Willy and his crew found several tunnels leading out, but filled them with booby traps so no one could get at their treasure. Willy then proceeded to kill all of his men to ensure that they couldn't circumvent the booby traps (although one man escaped with a map).
  • The Jackal: A gunsmith builds a mechanical control mount for the eponymous assassin’s BFG. Then he tries to blackmail the Jackal for extra money, and the killer tests the gun by killing him with it.
  • James Bond:
    • The Spy Who Loved Me. After the two scientists create the submarine tracking system for Stromberg, he has them murdered.
    • Tomorrow Never Dies features this too, with Elliot Carver shooting Gupta dead once Gupta reports the system's complete, depriving Bond of his Human Shield.
  • Lethal Weapon 4: The Triads counterfeit millions in Chinese currency to buy the release of their imprisoned leaders and murder the printer (who almost backs out of the job until they kill the eldest member of his family and then threaten the others) once the job is done. It's unclear whether they intended to kill him from the start or only did so due to the pressure of the police investigation or out of anger at his earlier resistance.
  • The Big Bad of Live Free or Die Hard kills the hackers who help him build the tools he needs to create a national emergency.
  • In Machete Kills, Mendez tells Machete that there is a Dead Man's Switch hooked up to his heart. If his heart stops beating, the stolen missile will be launched at Washington. He says that only two people know how to disarm the device. Doctor Villachez, his chief scientist, confirms this. Mendez then shoots Villachez and tells Machete there is now only one person who knows how to disarm it, and they are in the US.
  • The Mckenzie Break: A naval engineer who helps several other Nazi POWs construct their tunnel (but doesn't plan to escape himself) is beaten to death by the leader of the plot once the tunnel is completed. It's unclear whether Schluter intended to kill Unger from the start or only kills him because Unger witnesses Schluter causing the deaths of several other German prisoners to provide a distraction for the escape. The latter is implied, though.
  • In Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Agent Sands kills a cook who made a dish Sands likes particularly well. As Sands sees it, he has restored balance, and can look back with enjoyment on that meal as a one time moment of perfection. Sands is crazy.
  • After Galen's engineers complete the construction of the Death Star in Rogue One, Krennic has them all killed, both to keep them silent and to spite Galen for leaking information to the Rebel Alliance. Galen left a design flaw for the Rebels to exploit and as a middle finger to the Empire.
  • Sherlock Holmes: The Summation reveals that Luke Reardon created the various chemical solutions that the villain uses to fake having supernatural powers throughout the movie, and was then killed.
  • Tenet. The Algorithm, the device that can temporally-invert the entire planet, is the only one of its kind, invented by a scientist who destroyed all records of its creation, inverted the pieces, then killed herself so no one would be able to force her to recreate it.
  • Underworld: Evolution states this is the real reason Selene's family was slaughtered. Viktor had hired Selene's father to build a tomb to hold William Corvinus, the first Werewolf. Slightly different in that this only happened after Lucian escapes and starts the Lycan uprising. Fearing that Lucian will find William's location and free him, Viktor murders Selene's family and makes it look like a Lycan attack.
  • In the original script (and deleted scenes) of The Unknown, Alonzo murders the doctor who amputated his arms so he could never reveal Alonzo's secret.
  • In the film of Watchmen, all the scientists involved in the reactor/energy weapon are killed and then vaporized.
  • In xXx, the Big Bad kills all the scientists with his bioweapon, after they finished building his submarine. While it serves as a pretty good Kick the Dog moment, it also raises Fridge Logic questions since he's planning to bomb every major city but they've only built one for him.

  • Averted in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: due to its highly advanced nature, every piece of the Nautilus was built separately in shipyards around the world, and then assembled by him and his crew (like him, they'd survived a British crushing a revolt, so they never wanted to leave or reveal its secrets) on their Island Base.
  • 24: In Declassified: Cat's Claw, this trope is zigzagged when several Eco Terrorists invent a bio-weapon. The eco-terrorists don't plan to harm any of the people who made the virus (or anyone, if they can help it) and its vaccine. However, a rogue member of the group sells the virus to a Middle-Eastern terrorist who sets out to kill everyone who knows how to make the vaccine before the CTU can find those people and make them cure the infected politicians and civilians. One of them survives, foiling the villain's plan.
  • Alex Rider:
    • The second entry in the series, Point Blanc, had this as part of the backstory for the eponymous location. But it wasn't to keep secrets, nor to ensure that the building would remain unique: the architect did such a poor job that his contracter had him shot.
    • Later in Point Blanc, the plastic surgeon responsible for altering Dr. Grief's clones to resemble the heirs to vast fortunes is killed once his work is complete (albeit partially because he asks for more money).
    • In the fifth book, Scorpia, pharmaceutical executive Harold Lieberman invents a nanobot weapon that SCORPIA plans to use to kill all of the schoolchildren in England and ends up Impaled with Extreme Prejudice. His employers do consider letting him live, but only briefly.
      Mrs. Rothman: We'll probably have to kill him too. He may have invented Invisible Sword, but he has no idea how we plan to use it. I expect he'll object. So he'll have to go.
  • Challengers of the Unknown: The workers who built the Nazi bunker were shot and dumped in a trench they dug as part of the base, ensuring their permanent silence.
  • Tom Clancy:
    • Against All Enemies features Pedro Romero, a construction engineer who reluctantly makes a tunnel under the Mexican border in order to afford a medical operation for one of his children. A group of Islamic terrorists who pay Romero's boss to use the tunnel kill Romero once they see how uncomfortable he is about the idea of what they'll do in America. Romero briefly gains the upper hand by threatening the terrorists with a detonator that can trigger explosives rigged to collapse the tunnel if the authorities find it, but ultimately he's stabbed In the Back.
    • The nuclear engineer in The Sum of All Fears was killed by the terrorists as soon as they believed the bomb was finished. They probably should have let him triple check everything first.
  • Cryptonomicon: The final step in the WW-II Japanese plan to build a super-secret underground vault for their plundered wealth was to flood it with water, with all of their slave labor sealed up inside along with all the gold. Fortunately for some of the workers, one of their leaders knew what was coming, and designed in a back-door escape route.
  • The Day of the Jackal: Zigzagged. The Jackal visits a gunsmith and a forger in preparation for his mission. He kills the forger for trying to blackmail him, but never considers doing the same thing to the gunsmith. However, it's mentioned that the gunsmith has hidden evidence of his various criminal dealings, so that any client who does decide to shoot the builder will get an unwelcome visit from the police.
  • Dirk Pitt Adventures:
    • In Sahara, Yves Massarde sends the engineers who designed his nuclear waste disposal facility to be worked to death as slave laborers (along with their families) after they become suspicious that he's Cutting Corners and start snooping around.
    • In Atlantis Found, the Nazi Arctic submarine base and storage facility was constructed by a slave labor force of Russian POW's. Most of them died of cold and exhaustion during the construction, and the survivors were executed afterward.
    • The Big Bad of Black Wind plans to blow up the engineers who built his missile launcher (and the crew of the ship housing the launcher) as soon as he's used it to deliver a bioweapon to the U.S. He fails, and the engineers are captured and questioned. Interestingly, there's no indication that he plans to lethally silence the biologists who create the bioweapon.
    • Prior to the events of The Treasure of Khan, the Mad Scientists who built the villains' earthquake machine died shortly afterward. It's ambiguous whether their employers murdered them or if they died accidentally while testing their invention.
    • Zigzagged in Lost City from the sequel series. The scientists hired by Racine Fauchard to recreate the Elixir of Life are initially paid off and sent home unharmed. However, Racine accidentally leaves evidence of her crimes on one scientist's computer, causing the research team to threaten to go to the authorities. Racine murders nearly all of them within a week. Then she discovers there are flaws in the potion that she can't fix on her own, and spares at least one scientist so that he can fix the formula. Instead, he sabotages the potion to kill her.
    • In the climax of The Storm, as the heroes are about to capture the last villains, the Big Bad shoots the scientist who built his swarm of nanobots (others helped, but none of them are working for the villains) so that no one will be able to stop them from destroying the island all of them are on.
  • Discworld:
    • The Colour of Magic features Goldeneyes Silverhand Dactylos, a parody of several Real Life mythsnote  Dactylos built a golem army for Pitchiu, who richly rewarded him but put out his eyes so he could make nothing for his rivals. Dactylos made himself some non-functional golden eyes, then learned how to work metal by hearing, helped build the Palace of the Seven Deserts, and was showered in silver by its emir, who also had Dactylos' hand lopped off. Dactylos made himself a silver prosthesis and helped build the great Light Dam for the tribes of Nef, who hamstrung and imprisoned him, until Dactylos crafted himself a flying machine and escaped. When he appears in the story, Dactylos has just finished making a flying machine for the rulers of Krull, who promised to reward him with nothing but his freedom, without lopping off any limbs. Instead they shoot him In the Back with a crossbow.
      Dactylos: (pokes at the arrowhead protruding from his chest) Sloppy craftsmanship. (thud)
    • Invoked by one of Sybil Ramkin's ancestors to Bergholt Stuttley Johnson, although in this case it was a preventive measure. Johnson already had a reputation as "Bloody Stupid" Johnson for years by that time.
    • In Small Gods, the narration states that the labyrinth creators were most likely murdered. This is described as "a traditional method of patent protection".
    • Played more seriously in Thud! when several dwarf miners are murdered for this reason, only one of them leaves a Dying Curse that causes much of the problems of the novel.
    • Making Money: As part of his obsession with Vetinari, Cosmo Lavish hires craftsmen to make a signet ring like Vetinari's and a device that tugs at his eyebrow so that he will start reflexively raising his eyebrow like the patrician does. He has his enforcer kill both men once they finish their work to keep his obsession secret (the jeweler who makes the ring doesn't help his case by engaging in a bit of blackmail). This backfires on Cosmo since the ring is far too tight (although he's too enthralled with it to notice) and the eyebrow device is faulty and gives him a black eye. The dead craftsmen are in no position to fix them.
  • Discussed and Defied in the Dresden Files novel Small Favor. Gard, a thousand-year-old valkyrie and "security contractor", complains that after building a supernatural panic room, her employer refused her suggestion to simply execute all the workers who'd been part of the job in order to keep it secret.
  • A variation appears in Arthur C. Clarke's The Fountains of Paradise: The architect of the Fountains of Kalidasa commits suicide because someone had warned him that he would be blinded when his work was done. Kalidasa is quite outraged at being accused of such a thing:
    He never discovered the source of the rumor, and quite a few men died slowly before they proved their innocence. It saddened him that the Persian had believed such a lie; surely he should have known that a fellow artist would never have robbed him of the gift of sight....
    He would never have needed to use his hands again, and after a while, he would not have missed them.
  • The Hardy Boys: The Secret of the Island Treasure features the Hardy Boys participating in an expedition to dig up some Pirate Booty after finding an old treasure map. They have to dig about thirty feet (and brave some booby traps) to reach the treasure. They also find three skeletons that the group's archeologist speculates belonged to crewmen who helped the pirate captain dig the pit, and then were killed to keep its location a secret.
  • Honour Among Thieves, the Caper Crew leader has goons kidnap a plastic surgeon's daughter to make her father give a man an operation to look like the President as part of a plan to steal the Declaration of Independence. They tell the doctor that they’ll let him and his daughter go after the operation. They don’t. They also debate killing the alcoholic Master Forger to ensure he doesn’t get Loose Lips, but he ends up in custody before they can make a decision.
  • The protagonist in William Mudford's The Iron Shroud finds a final message written by the engineer of the Death Trap he's imprisoned him, written on the walls which are closing in around him.
  • Jack Reacher: In Die Trying, Beau Borken commissions an underground bunker to hold the president's goddaughter prisoner, then kills five of the contractors and locks the sixth inside, promising to dismember him alive unless he gets out by the morning. There is no way out, although the worker breaks off his fingernails trying to find one. Beau then dismembers the worker, satisfied that his secret is safe, and that if one of the men who built the room couldn't get out, then his prisoner won't be able to either.
  • In The Master Sniper by Stephen Hunter, a German engineer during World War II designs the primitive solar-powered infra-red sight on a modified StG44 rifle intended for an assassination mission. The SS then kill him and the other weapon designers, unfortunately just before he was going to reveal a crucial flaw with the weapon that he had discovered.
  • Parker:
    • In The Man With the Getaway Face, a criminal on the run returns to the underworld plastic surgeon who changed his face and murders him, as the surgeon was the only one to know what his new face looks like. This causes problems for Parker, who is another client of the surgeon, as the surgeon's staff start hunting down past clients for revenge.
    • In Flashfire, Julius Norte, the man Parker is buying a fake ID from, is attacked by a hitman sent by a previous client (implied to be a former drug dealer) out to eliminate anyone who knows his new identity. Parker speculates that the client also got plastic surgery and then probably killed the doctor. The guy even sends hitmen after Parker in case Norte told him anything. This turns out to be a Revealing Cover Up and gets the client caught by the FBI after the police capture one of his hitmen.
  • In the original The Phantom of the Opera book, the Shah in Shah (King of Kings of Persia), who hired Erik (the eponymous phantom) to be his architect for a palace at Mazenderan where you could not utter a word but it was overheard or repeated by an echo tries to do this. Doesn't work.
  • Prelude to Dune:
    • The Baron Harkonnen and some flunkies go to his secret resort, decorated with display cases containing the decaying corpses of the architects, who died with resigned looks on their faces.
    • Rabban also kills the Richese scientist who invents the no-field and builds the Baron's no-chamber and a small no-ship. The Baron later berates Rabban for his rash actions when the no-ship ends up being destroyed (in fairness to Rabban, he was under the impression that the Harkonnen had enough information to copy the inventor's works. Unfortunately for the Harkonnen and the inventor, the inventor had taken counter-measures to keep the Harkonnen from replicating his work without his further aid, but did not get the opportunity to explain this to anyone before being killed). It's not until millennia later that the technology is rediscovered (well, it's almost rediscovered shortly after when the scientist's colleague finds his own secret no-chamber aboard an orbital lab, but the Sardaukar then board and destroy the station).
  • The brilliant cathedral architect Macallan, who designed the Water Pit in Riptide, did his best to avert this trope in-universe. Being forced to work on the perfect hiding place for stashing an immense pirate hoard, he knew his end would come upon the pit's completion. He delayed construction of the deathtrap-laden treasure pit as much as he possibly could, and gets his posthumous revenge by rigging the final treasure room to be completely unsalvageable, dumping the treasure into the caverns below the pit once the room has been breached.
  • In Septimus Heap, builders avoid working for alchemists for this reason.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, King Maegor the Cruel, who organized the completion of the royal palace and King's Landing, had the architects, masons, etc. murdered so that he would be the only one who knew the location of all of the secret passages. Despite this, Varys the Spider has access to most of the passageways. In fact when we finally see it's all one network; once you've got inside one you can find all the other entrances from the back. One of the (many) scenarios suggested about Maegor's mysterious death is that a surviving worker broke in through the passageway and killed him.
    • Shortly after having all the workers killed, Maegor the Cruel began construction of the Dragonpit. Any workers who hadn't worked on the Red Keep promptly fled the city. He had to use prisoners instead.
  • In Spy School, the skull of the architect who built Mr. E's Paris home can be found in the catacombs below said home.
  • According to Hiren in the Star Trek: Vulcan's Soul novels, those who designed and built the Council Chamber in which the Romulan Senate now meet were executed immediately afterward, to ensure the building would be one of a kind.
  • Star Wars: Catalyst: Late in the book, Galen notices that other scientists working on his energy project (which is being used for the Death Star super laser) are mysteriously vanishing once they've completed vital work and they start asking questions about it.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Sourcebooks for The Thrawn Trilogy reveal that after the construction of The Maze containing his hidden treasure vault, Palpatine killed both the architect and the construction foreman to make sure that no one but he could find their way through.
      Palpatine: And if I ever need your services again, I will not hesitate to clone you.
    • Shadows of the Empire The sourcebook short story "Only One of Her Kind" shows Xizor purchase the human replica droid Guri and then have her kill the scientist who is primarily (although not solely) responsible for her creation so no one else will have a similar weapon. This effort fails because the scientist was Properly Paranoid enough to make a replica droid of himself and have that droid deliver Guri to Xizor.
    • Palpatine and his minions do this on a planetary scale in Death Star. Grand Moff Tarkin uses convict laborers from the prison planet Despayre for the final stage of the Death Star's construction. Then he blows up the entire planet to test the space station's super laser. The only survivors are a few engineers deemed valuable enough to spare for additional work and a man who stows away on a supply vessel returning to the Death Star.
    • Bevel Lemelsik, the primary designer of the Death Star, is initially rewarded instead of being murdered, but after the Death Star is destroyed due to an overlooked weak spot, he's tortured to death by a furious Palpatine (as revealed in The Callista Trilogy). Then Lemelisk is resurrected with dark magic so he can build a second, improved Death Star.
    • Lemelisk's former teacher Nasdra Magrody plays a minor, Obliviously Evil role in creating the Death Star, but suffers this fate in relation to a completely different project in the Back Story of The Callista Trilogy. Magrody's family is held hostage while he's forced to build a brain implant that will control machines with the Force. After the project's completion, he disappears and is probably murdered.
    • Tales of the Bounty Hunters: This is done by the builders' creation rather than their employer. The assassin droid IG-88 spends years trying to kill all of the scientists who helped build him and know about his weak spot so that they'll never tell anyone.
    • The Bounty Hunter Wars: In the Back Story, Gheeta the Hutt hired Emd Grahvess to design a spaceport to receive visitors to Gheeta's territory. Gheeta planned to murder Grahvess once the job was done so that the design would be unique. Grahvess anticipated this betrayal and hired Boba Fett to spirit him away once the job was done, humiliating Gheeta.
  • Jedi Academy Trilogy: The construction crew who built the Maw Installation think tank were thanked for their services and sent on their way … in a shuttle with a sabotaged navigation system, causing them to crash into a black hole and take the secret of the WMD-developing base with them to their graves.
    • Prior to Labyrinth of Evil Palpatine killed everyone involved in the design and delivery of Darth Maul's ship except two scientists he planned to use later and a pilot who went into hiding. During the book's events, Palpatine unsuccessfully attempts to kill the pilot and the less important scientist to cover his tracks.
      Fa'ale Lah: You know, they killed the engineers, the mechanics, just about everyone who worked on that craft. But I knew. I made the delivery, grabbed what was due me, and I was away. Not far enough, though. They tracked me to Ryloth, Nar Shaada, half the starforsaken worlds in the Tingel Arm. I had my share of close calls.
  • In Temple (by Matthew Reilly), after the heroes kill all of his guards, the omnicidal Big Bad kills the scientist who built his doomsday device so no one can disarm it.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Arrow, Malcolm Merlyn executes the scientists who built his earthquake machine.
  • Zigzagged in Better Call Saul: Gus goes through a lot of trouble so he can keep his underground drug lab secret without killing the team that built it, hiring a foreign team that work and sleep not knowing their exact location. He still ends up having the lead engineer Werner murdered, but only because Werner got sick of living indoors for months, blabbed about the project to strangers, and eventually ran off trying to visit his wife. The rest of the workers are given their money and spared.
  • Castle: Shortly before the events of "Poof, You're Dead", magic trick inventor Zelman Drake built a robotic dummy to control the take off of Dahl's plane and make it look like Dahl was onboard so the SEC wouldn't pursue Dahl. Dahl killed him to keep the plot secret, which became a Revealing Cover Up.
  • Father Brown: "The Alchemist's Secret" opens with the alchemist murdering the architect and leaving his body sealed in the secret room in the university (along with the box containing the eponymous secret), after having been assured that the builders have been 'dealt with'.
  • Forever Knight. Just to show us that LaCroix was evil before he became a vampire, he's introduced as a general in Ancient Rome, boasting of how he had the eyes of the sculptor of his bust put out.
  • Get Smart: A Mad Scientist who builds a robot assassin is killed by his boss to keep him from building robots for anyone else. This is partially justified by how he'd already built another robot who has been a big asset to the heroes. Killing the scientist backfires when his robot is destroyed, leaving KAOS with no way to build a replacement.  
  • The Good Guys: In "The Little Things", a pair of cartel members who rob their bosses to start a new life attempt to kill the men selling them their new fake IDs.
  • Hogan's Heroes:
    • In "Hot Money," Hogan uses the fear of being murdered to get a printing technician to sabotage a Nazi counterfeiting operation. Some Manipulative Editing of a recording is used to make the technician (who is in no real danger) think that he'll be shot for security reasons once the counterfeiting operation is complete. This gives the printer a vested interest in sabotaging the printing plates and sending the operation back to the starting line.
    • In "The Experts," the Gestapo sets out to murder two radio experts stationed at Stalag 13 on false charges of organizing a black market operation. One of the men is shot while supposedly resisting arrest, but Hogan warns the other one. The surviving German eventually reveals that (along with another man who was shot during an alleged desertion attempt) the two of them helped install the communications facility at a secret bunker for the German high command. The efforts to keep that facility secret become directly responsible for its exposure.
  • Horrible Histories: In his "Stupid Deaths" appearance, Ivan the Terrible explains to Death the acts that earned the sobriquet "the Terrible". This includes the blinding of Postnik Yakovlev—the architect who designed St. Basil's—so he could never make anything so beautiful again, as described in the 'Real Life' section below.
  • Mission: Impossible:
    • In "The Legacy", when the IMF discover the underground chamber containing Hitler's gold, they also find the bodies of the workmen who dug the chamber; killed so they could not tell anyone its location.
    • In an episode of the 80s revival, a dictator tells his aide to hire a nuclear scientist for a small touch-up job on the nuclear bomb he has set to destroy a major city, then kill said scientist.
  • Person of Interest. In "God Mode", while Team Machine are tracking down the secret location of the Machine, they discover all the engineers who built the place suffered fatal accidents. This isn't just to stop anyone else from building a Machine, but to prevent knowledge of its existence from going public as its all-pervasive surveillance of US citizens is illegal.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In one episode, O'Brien and Bashir are helping two alien races who have recently settled an old feud to disarm a bioweapon from their war. Once they succeed, the aliens (attempt to) kill everyone involved in the project so that no one will be able to recreate it.
  • Supernatural: In season 12, Crowley imprisons Lucifer's soul within a vessel that he has magical control over. When Lucifer tries to break the spell controlling him, he's told that Crowley killed the demon who cast the spell so no one could undo it.

    Newspaper Comics 

    Religion and Mythology 
  • Classical Mythology:
    • Subverted by King Minos and Daedalus. Minos only locked the famous architect away, because he still wanted to use his talent. Even when Daedalus advised Ariadne the best way to help Theseus, Minos didn't kill him, but imprisoned in the labyrinth. Some versions of this myth suggest that Minos spared Daedalus' life, not only because of his talent, but also the friendship they shared.
    • Almost inverted when Daedalus escaped and hid in another kingdom, where Minos eventually tracked him down. However, before the King could capture the architect, Daedalus boiled Minos alive.
    • One story involves an inventor presenting a tyrant with a brazen bull: a hollow bronze statue of a bull in which a condemned prisoner is placed. A fire is lit under the statue, and the screams of pain imitate the bellowing of a bull. On completion, the inventor was the bull's first victim, either out of Even Evil Has Standards or this trope depending on the version.
  • Occurs in some variations of stories from Hindu Mythology with either Viswakarman, the divine Architect Of The Devas, or more commonly Mayanote , the Architect of the Asuras.
  • Norse myth has Wayland the Smith, who was kidnapped in his sleep by a king, hamstrung, and dumped on an island with a forge to make goods for the king. He took his revenge by killing the king's sons, forging jewelry out of their eyes and teeth, and then drugging and raping the king's daughter. Wayland then told the king and queen where that fancy jewelry had come from before flying off to freedom with a winged cloak he had made during his imprisonment.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Legend of the Five Rings, the Scorpion clan cooperated with an engineering genius from the Crab clan to bury a powerful necromancer, securing his body with deadly traps to defend it against possible resurrection attempts. When the work was done, the Scorpions informed the Crab leader that the builder sacrificed his life to set the traps from the inside, making sure no outside access to their mechanisms was left. The Crab leader knew the Scorpions well but pretended to buy it.
  • It's been mentioned in Shadowrun supplements that the best way to keep a new computer system secret is to kill the designer after he's finished creating it.
  • Games Workshop games:
    • In the Warhammer Tomb King army book, it's mentioned that it was expected of Necrotects to be buried with their pharaoh in the grandiose pyramid they designed. Refusing was not exactly illegal, but accident-prone (and even then, many Necrotects actually went willingly, as their services would be needed in the afterlife). In undeath they give the Hatred rule to any unit they join on seeing mere barbarians vandalizing their creations and allow nearby animated statues to repair themselves.
      • Ramhotep the Visionary made a career out of disguising himself as lesser builders and then swapping out when the time came for the builder to go into the pyramid. He only followed tradition when he was close to dying, and was none too happy upon waking up in undeath to find none of his other projects survived. He once built an army of statues for the sole purpose of razing a pair of Imperial towns whose armies had crushed a wall he'd built in life... almost 200 years after the last soldier of that army was dead.
    • The background for the Warhammer 40,000 Aeldari character Maugan Ra, it is mentioned that he crippled the master Bonesinger who taught him how to create his mighty weapon the Maugetar so that a greater weapon could never be created.

    Theme Parks 
  • In Doctor Doom's Fearfall at Universal's Islands of Adventure, the title character uses Heind Redken, the scientist primarily responsible for building his "Tower of Doom", as the invention's first test subject. The Tower is successful in its function, but it kills Heind in the process.

    Video Games 
  • In Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, Roberto Bianchi's chapter ends this way.
  • The Shrine Carpenters who built the Kuze Shrine/Manor of Sleep in Fatal Frame III were made into sacrificial pillars after they were done to protect the building's secrets.
  • Averted in the first God of War: The architect of Pandora's Temple, Pathos Verdes III, commits suicide by despair after building the temple (which cost him both his sons and later his wife). Played straight in the third game, where Zeus chained Daedalus away when he completes the Labyrinth. In Greek Mythology, Daedalus and his son were sealed inside the Labyrinth by Minos for the reasons mentioned in the description, but they got away with that.
  • In The Feeble Files, the guy who devised the security systems on Cygnus Alpha (a max security prison colony) gets sent there as a prisoner shortly after. When Feeble asks him why, he says it's because the information on those systems became classified and he still had them in his brain.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: The description for Calo Nord's battle armour says that he killed the craftsman who made it for him in order to appease his ego, ensuring the armour would always be unique.
  • Mass Effect 2: In Lair of the Shadow Broker, the following conversation takes place (while musing on the Shadow Broker's base):
    Shepard: I wonder what happened to the contractors?
    Liara: I think I can guess.
  • Path of Exile: Implied by the Lord's Labyrinth, a Death Course that had originally been created by the late Emperor Izaro to test would-be successors. One type of enemy you can run across there are "Undead Engineers", suggesting that a good number of the people involved in building the labyrinth ultimately met this fate once their work was finished.
  • Planescape: Torment: The Practical Incarnation commissioned the construction of an elaborate crypt. Then he of course murdered the architect and builder to hide its secret. It's not a tomb, it's a trap.
    • The Paranoid Incarnation tried to safeguard his diary by writing it in an ancient language no one but him knew. He accomplished this by finding a linguist who was the only one alive who knew the language, convinced him to teach it, then killed the man.
  • In Resident Evil, this was the fate of George Trevor, who designed the mansion (he escaped, only to find that they were just messing with him anyway, and gave up and starved to death after learning of his family's fate). However, compared to his wife and daughter, he got off lightly; unbeknown to him, they were used as test subjects while he was working on the mansion. The latter became a Tragic Monster, while the former fought off her infection, only to be killed by Umbrella when she failed as a test subject.
  • This is the fate of The Architect of the Ancient Pyramid level in Waxworks (1992), who you find early on lying across a desk with his throat slit. However, he lived long enough to write down a few important clues, leading to the High Priest's downfall.

  • In Girl Genius, Castle Heterodyne calls this "an accepted method of dealing with contractors".
    • Averted by Martellus, who decided to build his secret lair entirely by himself. When Agatha asks why he didn't resort to this trope, Martellus points out that in their world, death keeps very few secrets.
  • Oglaf: Played for laughs in "The Virgin Cobbler", where a client decides to make sure that a cobbler who claims her legendary skill at boot-making is linked to her virginity will never create a finer pair of boots than the ones she made for her by seducing the cobbler. Said cobbler is later seen laughing about the client's gullibility as she purchases a "potion of virginity restoration" she and the potion-maker both know full well is sugar water.
  • Downplayed example in The Order of the Stick — the craftsman who made a perfect duplicate of Xykon's phylactery for Redcloak is actually killed by someone else as collateral damage. However, after Redcloak sincerely pays his respects to the dead hobgoblin for doing such a masterful job, he... disintegrates the corpse rather than raising him from the dead as he easily could. It's left ambiguous whether he would have kept the guy alive if he'd found him that way — he would be the only other person to know about an extremely delicate and dangerous secret, after all.

    Web Original 
  • This Cracked article theorises that Batman would have had to kill the workers who helped to build the Batcave. (Some of the official have addressed this issue, though of course Batman's solutions are non-violent.)
  • The Evil Overlord List Cellblock B mentions this in item #212. Presumably, there is another entry elsewhere on avoiding the problems of No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup that would eventually come up. At least one version says that instead of this trope, make sure they are well paid and live on site until your plans are finished. You need someone to repair and maintain the place, and you will waste valuable time training the new guys.
  • Troopers: One animated episode has Dread Lord Sinister hire a contractor to build several doors on the Dread Cruiser that just open into space for surreptitiously disposing of minions. He then pays the contractor in gift certificates for the gift shop, which he'd just paid the first contractor's brother to make into a room that turns people inside-out, and then he sends the second contractor out one of the doors his brother built. Unfortunately, the third contractor he hired to build a spa refuses to finish it until he tells him what happened to his brothers.
  • Villain Source (formerly Villain Supply) advises this in the header for Lairs and Bases.

    Western Animation 
  • G.I. Joe: Renegades has a non-fatal variant: The primary researcher for a Holographic Disguise has his mind wiped and researched destroyed because Cobra Commander wanted to have the only one. It was also designed to only be usable by the first person to put it on. Unfortunately for him, Zartan puts it on first, so the Commander has to settle for a (coerced) shapeshifting minion instead of having the power himself.

    Real Life and Legend 
  • Postnik Yakovlev was one of the architects and builders of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow. According to legend, Ivan the Terrible, at the time Tsar of Russia, had Yakovlev blinded so that he could never build anything so beautiful again. Didn't stop him from building the Cathedral of Kazan, though.
  • Legend: Jan Růže, legendary constructor of a Prague Astronomical Clock, was not killed, but blinded to stop him from building an even more beautiful clock for another city. In return he sabotaged his own work and died when the mechanical heart of the clock stopped.
  • According to legend, the workers who built the labyrinths into the pyramids in Egypt were killed when they were finished with the construction.
  • According to some legends, Shah Jahan, the Mughal Emperor who had the Taj Mahal built, executed all the builders so they couldn't build anything to rival its beauty. Recorded fact proves that he did no such thing, he hired a team of architects that included several skilled labourers invited from Turkey, and Shah Jahan had no intention of upsetting relationships with the Ottoman Empire.
  • Perillos of Athens proposed to the infamously tyrannical Phalaris the torture/execution device known as the Brazen Bull. Supposedly, Phalaris used Perillos as the first test subject.
  • The First Emperor of China reportedly had the man who built his tomb killed so that he could not reveal its secrets.
  • Not as literal as these other examples but right at the end of World War II, the Japanese destroyed everything they could about their Yamato-class "super" battleships, apparently so they couldn't be copied (not that anyone wanted to). Most of the information about them comes from a report a visiting German officer compiled.
This gets particularly funny in context: there was not a single technology or design Imperial Japan had by that time in the war that was better than what the United States already had in the field. The Yamato, and her sister ship Musashi, were less effective in any role than the contemporary US battleships of Iowa class entering service about the same time, let alone the monster Montana class that were projected but never built; in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, old World War I era US battleships at the Pearl Harbor and a series a torpedo boats completely decimated the Japanese Southern Force.)
Even as a battleship, the Yamato class wasn't very awesome (aside from being the biggest battleship ever), because the only real advantage it had over the Iowa-class was its huge 18.1-inch guns (giving it a marginally greater range than other battleships—but their penetrative power comparison to the modernized US 16-inch guns of Iowa and Montana classes was not greater), but Imperial Japan's fire control systems weren't advanced/accurate enough to make that extra range worth anything. The Musashi was wrecked unceremoniously by a series of carrier strikes, and the Yamato was rendered irrelevant shortly after, when Japan had no carrier forces whatsoever or enough of a surface fleet to be a threat, and the Yamato was obliterated with minimal casualties by a single carrier strike later in the war.
In other words, Imperial Japan tried to invoke this trope for its Yamato-class battleships that were not as good as the average American battleship (not to mention carriers...), performed extremely poorly during the entire war, and the Japanese Empire knew this full well, but did it anyway. Sanity has its advantages, apparently.
  • Done in a slightly roundabout way with Imperial Japan's i-400 class submarine aircraft carriers. Except they were sunk by American forces to keep them out of Soviet hands after Japan's surrender... after they'd made very thorough inspections of the captured boats. While submarine aircraft carriers were something of a dead-end technology, the techniques used in making the hangar airtight later proved to be very useful in constructing the earliest ballistic missile submarines.
  • Chapo Guzmán's drug trafficking tunnels that go under the US border are allegedly built by slaves who are then killed for the sake of secrecy.
  • According to legend, Genghis Khan wished to be buried in an unmarked grave, following his tribe's tradition. So, the funeral escort killed any one or anything that crossed their path while taking him to his final destination. After his tomb was completed, the slaves who built it were killed, and the soldiers who killed them were killed. Legends disagree as to how secret they made Genghis Khan's final resting place; some say they diverted a river, buried him in the riverbank, and let the river flow again; others say they trampled the grave site down riding horses over it, then planted trees and such to further hide it.
  • A more modern example: after the Gaza War of 2014, it was revealed that Hamas had killed many of the people it had conscripted to build its tunnel network in order to prevent any leaks that might reach Israeli intelligence.
  • Downplayed by, of all people, H. H. Holmes, one of America's earliest and most infamous serial killers. During construction of his personally designed Hell Hotel (filled with hidden passageways, death traps, makeshift gas chambers and places to dispose bodies), he would fire workers after two weeks at maximum citing shoddy workmanship, so he would be the only person who knew exactly what it was that was being built.
  • There is a legend that a king once summoned the Irish architect Goban Saor to build him a palace, intending to kill him as soon as it was complete, so that he'll never build a better one. Goban Saor learned of the scheme, and pretended he needs a tool from home to fix something. The king refused to release him, so he demanded that the king's son be sent instead - with a message that made his wife (or daughter-in-law) trap the prince and send the king back a message that either both return home safely, or no one does.
  • There are rumors that dictator Kim Jong-un built a secret tunnel complete with train tracks between North Korea and China. Allegedly, the Korean slaves who built it were executed to prevent anyone from revealing its existence.

Alternative Title(s): Kill The Creator, Kill The Architect, Your Last Creation