The thing is, Alto Clef had never been afraid of anything. As self-absorbed as it was, maybe, he just never did fear anything. Death? As if he would fear anything of such. All those other things people tend to be afraid of? Nah. Snakes and isolation and… well, whatever it is that people fear. It isn’t exactly a point of pride, mostly just a state of reality. Alto Clef did not fear anything.

What he does do, however, is fear for things.

It hasn’t always been like that. There had been a time when he had no idea that there was something for him to fear for. Back when all he was encompassed the descriptor of “really annoying agent” just like a lot of other Global Occult Coalition agents. There was nothing beyond that, not really. Day to day survival, certainly, but the Coalition helped with the whole “not starving to death” thing fairly well. He got paid. He paid them for guns and ammo and a new chestpiece from time to time. They fed him. He got tired of the food a lot. He shot anomalies, charred the corpses or dismantled the pieces or just left whenever nothing was left to do anything with. They paid him for that, too. Sometimes he got hurt, and they slapped bandages on him and shot him up with Med-X and Stimpaks.

The whole process had been completely simple. He was good at his job. He didn’t bother much with getting to know anyone, mostly because all the women were disgusted with him and everyone else found him unsettling anyway. Whatever.

At some point, they’d sent him up to Boston. “There’s a powerful anomaly up there,” they’d said. “It’s been causing technological failures to all of our equipment,” they’d said. “It could function at a much larger scale and cause severe harm,” they’d said. They hadn’t mentioned the fucking antlers and hooves or the plant growth ability, and at least if he’d known he could have done something like, maybe, braced himself before almost losing his mind again over this.

And that’s the point where Clef had realized that there did exist something in the world for him to fear for.

He didn’t fear that girl from the forest. He’d never really feared her, just sort of built up a lot of anger and a dislike of lakes over it. Ponds. Rivers. Natural bodies of water. She wasn’t a girl anymore though, and he wasn’t a boy, and he didn’t hesitate for a moment when she turned and saw his face and he waited just long enough for her to recognize him and feel everything that recognition brought with it.

She was a nature goddess, but she’d been made of bits and pieces that would fall apart with the application of a shotgun blast. Clef almost wished he had better aim and could have just done it with something less… destructive, but he didn’t really care about seeing the last look on her face that much. It was fine. But then he heard a shuffle and oh motherfucker, he should have expected this. She had been a nature goddess. She’d wanted a child. Of course she had a child. He’d never actually thought of this as a possibility, in all his years after the fact, but of course, of fucking course it had happened.

She had hooves but no antlers. Maybe that was a recessive gene. She looked much more human than her mother had (not that she really resembled a human anymore in her current state), a skin color much closer to that of a human’s (matching Clef’s almost exactly) and hair that looked more human-like (also matching Clef’s almost exactly). She was old enough, assuming she had human-type development, that she understood what she had seen, and maybe old enough to remember years and years later.

Christ, he hadn’t meant to do that.

Clef had expected a struggle, even the possibility of a chase. But when he approached she didn’t move, just stared at his face the whole time. He entertained the thought that she understood why he’d done it, why he’d murdered her mother right in front of her, left in an unidentifiable state on the grass. But there was no way she could have known.

She let him pick her up, and even though the walk to the vault was long, she never once struggled or cried. He handed her over, and the vault dwellers didn’t question him. Maybe it was because religious types took children seriously, even hoofed ones that bruised and bled at the slightest touch and cried with a voice like a thousand animals screaming out in pain. Strange, she hadn’t erupted in sores when Clef had held her, but he hadn’t really worried about it at the time. They took her, solemn looks on their faces, and when he’d gotten a few dozen feet away from the cavern entrance was when he heard the sound of boulders crashing to the ground.

When Clef turned, the entrance he’d come in through had disappeared.

“What the fuck happened to that one vault” was a good question, one that Clef didn’t bother help answering. For a while the Coalition concerned itself with its sudden burial, thinking of methods to unearth it, but the vault itself had never been that much of a use to them in the first place and the Codex put the Coalition first and foremost, even though some objected to “abandoning” the vault dwellers to their sealed, doomed fate.

When did they grow a conscience, anyway?

But things couldn’t last that way, even if Clef had hoped. At some point, someone dug through the rubble and found the Vault entrance. Someone cracked the door open. Someone got in, and it really was only a matter of time before the Coalition came in with the big guns.

The Coalition was fast, but Clef is faster.

He doubted that any of them recognized him when he came barging in, but the fact that he knew who the girl with the hooves was probably gave them a decent idea of who he might be. The fact that he wasn’t affected by her, and that she wasn’t by him, also probably helped with the whole trusting part. She was sixteen now, old enough to know what the hell was going on and old enough to demand an explanation. Apparently “there are people who are looking for you because of what happened to those raiders and if they find you they’ll kill you” was convincing enough as a reason. She wrapped her head and draped herself in cloths softer than anything Clef had ever felt in his lifetime, and she held his hand firmly as they left.

“Where are we going?” she’d asked. Clef resisted the usual urge to shrug and make a snippy remark.

“Underground again, just somewhere safer,” was his response.

The Global Occult Coalition has knowledge of the secret side of Foundation activities, of course. They cover the same ground, more or less, and look to each other as rivals rather than possible partners. Which is a good thing in this case, because as much as the Foundation may regard the Coalition with suspicion, they still earnestly believe in the idea of protecting humanity by preservation, not destruction.

Unfortunately, preservation and isolations are hand in hand in the Foundation. Clef finds himself arguing, more out of anger than anything else, as one of the security staff tries to pull his daughter from him.

“I don’t fucking think so,” he snaps. “You’ve got a boss. Someone in charge. I’m talking to them, not you, and if not we’re leaving.”

He’s not actually sure if it’s possible to do that. He might end up dead and Helena locked up. Oof, that’s not good.

Surprisingly enough he does get an audience with someone with authority. Clef recognizes them as that one vault dweller that the GOC had been shitting itself over, something about two hundred years of cryogenic stasis and pre-War knowledge and oh shit, is this really the head of the Minutemen and Foundation? Clef doesn’t really care about the Minutemen part, it’s the whole “head of the Foundation” thing that’s throwing him for a loop. He didn’t think a group as secretive as the Foundation would have let him just wander in for a chit-chat with their highest level leader.

“As it stands, I’m the only O5. So on one hand, you only have me to convince, but on the other hand, you only have me to convince.”

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