Spoiler Alert

Prime Video’s Fallout series confirmed an explosive fan theory. Vault-Tec was not merely a powerful conglomerate that got rich selling underground shelters. The company dropped the nuclear bombs that began The Great War. It sent humanity scurrying into Vaults secretly led by its own executives because it planned on reshaping and managing the world. That revelation, along with the corporation’s many other atrocities, turned it into the franchise’s greatest villain. But what does that mean for the organization that previously held that title, The Enclave? The evil agency has been the primary antagonist of multiple Fallout video games, and The Enclave’s own past actions seem to make it a natural foe of Vault-Tec. Each group wants to rule the world in its own image. But if they are enemies, how did the evil masterminds at Vault-Tec let The Enclave get ahold of its cold fusion technology on Fallout?

That raises an even bigger, more important question. Fallout‘s first season changed everything we know about Vault-Tec, and its own past suggests it might be The Enclave’s secret partner. That is, unless it’s even more sinister than that. The two Fallout groups might have always been different parts of a singular entity.

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What is The Enclave on Fallout?

Of all the factions featured in Fallout‘s first season, The Enclave was the least explored. But video game fans know all about the anti-communist, paramilitary organization. Their heinous actions for more than two hundred years are why everyone on the Prime Video series had such animosity towards the authoritarian, genocidal entity.

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In Fallout‘s world, The Enclave’s origins date back to before The Great War. It began as a powerful deep state within the U.S. government. Its members included some of the highest-ranking military, political, and corporate officials. (It even included Presidents.) Because of its beginning, The Enclave views itself as the direct and rightful heir to the United States government.

That has never resulted in The Enclave acting with any kind of governmental rules, standards, or accountability in Fallout. It’s an anti-democratic regime that kills anyone it deems a threat to either itself or its ideology. The Enclave does whatever it deems necessary to achieve its ends however it likes. That includes killing “inferior” humans, ghouls, and mutants alike. Fallout‘s Enclave wants to build and rule over a world of “true” humans. To accomplish its goal, it has enslaved people, performed horrible experiments, committed war crimes, and tried to wipe out entire populations and races.

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Even groups who compete with one another for resources have long been united in their hatred for The Enclave. Until the truth about Vault-Tec came out in the Fallout series, The Enclave was the wasteland’s unquestioned most evil group. But now that we know Vault-Tec’s true purpose there are all new questions about how the two vile groups might be connected.

What is The Enclave’s History With Vault-Tec in the Fallout Video Games?

The Enclave spent years not only preparing to survive a nuclear war but also to rule after it commenced. That included The Enclave spying on the experiments Vault-Tec was running in its Vaults prior to Fallout‘s Great War. The Enclave then monitored life in the Vaults for centuries. It’s how scientist Siggi Wilzig knew everything about Lucy MacLane’s life.

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The Enclave was even able to manipulate Vault behavior after the war. It told one group of Vault dwellers it was safe to return to the deadly surface, another cruel experiment. At various points after the war The Enclave even attacked Vaults and their dwellers. Ultimately, even those Vault denizens untouched by radiation, were deemed targets marked for death by The Enclave.

Some who suspected there was a shadow group within the United States government before the war, also thought the deep state entity was conspiring with Vault-Tec. The bombs that dropped (notably right after those suspicions became public) put an end to the investigations. Until Prime Video’s series, the Fallout games indicated only that The Enclave was an enemy of Vault-Tec. Everything that happened in the two centuries after nuclear war, seemed to paint the two factions in opposition.

Now, though, the origins and actions of both groups have raised the possibility that the Enclave and Vault-Tec have always been united, even if most of their members were unaware of this Fallout connection.

What Happened With The Enclave and Vault-Tec on the Fallout Series?

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Fallout’s games established that Enclave members—those high-ranking, powerful, influential politicians, military officers, and corporate figures—knew the nuclear bombs were coming. Meanwhile, Vault-Tec was no mere conglomerate. It essentially owned and ruled the United States in all but name prior to The Great War.

So either two totally different deep state groups, each of which has spent centuries trying to rule the world, happened to co-exist at the exact same time before the Great War, or they were working together.

Both answer are possible, though one seems far more plausible. Especially because if The Enclave and Vault-Tec were working together to rule Fallout‘s world, it would explain why The Enclave had possession of Vault-Tec technology that could have destroyed both groups.

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Moldaver’s cold fusion tech had the power to give the world free, unlimited energy. That was a direct threat to Vault-Tec’s plans, which is why Vault-Tec bought it. But if Vault-Tec is so powerful and has always been controlling events on the surface since even before Fallout‘s Great War, how did it let The Enclave get ahold of its most valuable asset? And once it did, why wouldn’t Vault-Tec do everything in its power to get it back? If The Enclave ever managed to unlock Moldaver’s cold fusion, it would have unlimited, unchecked power. Not even Vault-Tec could stop it. And that would ruin centuries of planning.

The most likely answer is also the most terrifying.

Are Vault-Tec and The Enclave Part of the Same Evil Group in Fallout?

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Prime Video’s series deemed it important enough to tell newcomers to the franchise the President was missing right before the bombs dropped. We also know from Fallout lore other members of The Enclave had also strategically retreated to safe locations right before The Great War started. But now that we know Vault-Tec—which owned “half of everything” including the U.S. government—dropped the first bombs in Fallout, it seems possible (maybe even likely) it forewarned The Enclave of what was coming.

Why would Vault-Tec do that if it had long-term plans to “manage” humanity? Why not simply destroy The Enclave forever and eliminate a dangerous enemy? And why, if Vault-Tec was so powerful itself, would it let The Enclave spy on its Vaults and their activities for centuries? Vault-Tec was able to bomb Shady Sands and stop humanity from restoring society on its own terms, but it couldn’t stop The Enclave from spying on it? That doesn’t seem to follow.

In the reverse, if The Enclave merely knew about Vault-Tec’s secret plans (which is how it knew the bombs were coming) why didn’t it try and eliminate Vault-Tec before the group could obtain such massive power?

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The most logical explanation is that Vault-Tec and The Enclave have always been working together in Fallout. (This would also explain how Wilzig knew the truth about Hank MacLane and why he needed to get Modalver’s tech away from The Enclave entirely.) Maybe not everyone within both groups has always known about their shared connection, which is why The Enclave has attacked Vaults before. But not everyone had to know. The less people who did the better.

The best way to keep a secret is to not tell anyone else. And only one person needed to know because as The Ghoul said, “There’s always somebody behind the wheel.”

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That person is New Vegas, where Hank MacLean has fled. But while Hank might think he ran to his company’s mastermind, that mysterious person might be driving a car that has always had two engines working together to power a single Fallout group that is more dangerous and more evil than either Vault-Tec or The Enclave could ever be on their own.

Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist who is already tired waiting for Fallout season two. You can follow him on  Twitter and   Bluesky at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.