The Ciphers of the West are a tribe of scientifically-gifted people in the western United States. They live concealed in the hills in NCR territory, but outside the Republic's control, which dismisses them as tribals. They spend their days memorizing pre-War schematics no contemporary wastelander can understand.
|The following is based on Van Buren design documents and is not canon.|
In the weeks following the Great War, a group of scientists and soldiers left the atomic laboratory at Los Alamos, New Mexico, and wandered north with a band of other survivors, looking for a place of relative safety. They assumed that they were the only "civilized" people left, since everyone else they encountered attacked them, trying to take their food, water, and clothes. When they discovered one of the ancient pueblos at Mesa Verde, they decided to set up camp there.
The group carried only a limited amount of technology with them. The soldiers had pistols and rifles, and the scientists carried one barely working computer, enough parts to build several water makers and a crude wind turbine to power them, several lead-lined boxes containing enriched uranium, and a small supply of medicine. The rest of the band had a variety of miscellaneous gear which most contributed to group use.
A decade later, the computer began to fail. Fearing that the technology of the Old World would be forever lost, the scientists began painting and carving electronic schematics into the walls of the pit. At the same time, they insisted that mathematics be emphasized when educating the village children so that their descendants would understand how to use the schematics.
Because they were steeped in mathematics from a very early age, the villagers tend to use a lot of mathematical terms to express themselves. This occasionally confusing, cryptic way of speaking caused them to be dubbed "Ciphers" by educated wasteland dwellers who thought they might be speaking in some type of code. The Ciphers merely shrugged and accepted the name.
As the years passed, the Ciphers forgot their disciplined, scientific roots and became more concerned with everyday survival rather than meaningless scientific theories. When it comes to electronic devices and weapons, the Ciphers know more about how it works than why it works: "The symbols say put this and this together, and then this happens. Why? Who knows? As long as the numbers are right, who cares?"
The emphasis on mathematics in their culture has led to Ciphers to assign an almost mystical significance to specific numbers. It is the closest thing to a religion they have. Each Cipher is believed to have a personal number, determined by the Nemonik at their birth. Ciphers will take their personal number into consideration when doing almost anything, from heading out to hunt on the sixth day of the month to choosing whom to marry. It's all very confusing to outsiders.
The village at Mesa Verde was tiny, to begin with, having barely enough room to house all the scientists, soldiers, and other survivors. Nearly a century later, the descendants of the original settlers had outgrown the space and resources available. Many families chose to adopt a nomadic lifestyle to avoid perpetual thirst and hunger. Only those families with very young children or those Ciphers too old and feeble to travel remain full-time in the village.
Both Cipher men and women are capable fighters, and even the children are taught how to fight as soon as they are able as a matter of practicality. A typical Cipher nomad band consists of two to three families traveling together. They usually have at least one type of electronic device like a cattle prod or an ultrasonic generator to ward off wild animals.
|End of information based on Van Buren design documents|
- The Courier: "What happened next?"
Elijah: "After that... I wandered, alone. Saw the storms of the Divide, walked among the Ciphers of the West. to the Big Empty. "
- Chris Avellone on Twitter: "My 2 Cents: They are concealed in the hills, in NCR territory but not controlled by NCR, who dismisses them as tribals."
- Chris Avellone on Twitter: "They spend their days memorizing schematics of the Pre-War, which outsiders can't figure out (except Elijah)."