The world of the Ladybugs was our world until 1916. During what was known as The Great War, German scientist Anton Casimir Dilger had come up with a plan to keep America from joining the allies. Not content to poison American cattle with Anthrax, he had created a strain of an existing disease; some said influenza, though no one had ever identified the original. With it he had infected several cities along the east coast. Though initially killing almost sixty million men, women, and children, the disease mutated over time to affect only the males of the species. There had been more than 850 million men on earth before he began his sabotage. By 1930, there were less than 200 million, and by 1950 there were less than 10 million.
Governments sent their remaining men to enclaves in the far southern reaches of the globe where the disease didn’t seem as virulent, and there most of them remained. In the last years of his life, the great inventor Nicola Tesla, in an attempt to save the species, designed and built the baby vats, where girls were grown from their mothers’ cells. The first vat babies were born just after Tesla’s death in 1943.
In 1956, the remaining totalitarian nations tried to expand across the world, taking advantage of the chaos caused by the disease. Democratic nations quickly allied to defeat the dictators. The war brought together the now mostly female nations as they had never been before, resulting in a world government. This new world was led by the Science Council, a meritocracy with its capital in Brussels. With an international army known as the Peace Force and an international police force called the Science Police, the new world set about to rebuild civilization. Several reminders of the war remain however. The San Joaquin Channel, the fourteen mile wide strip of sea water which separates the island of California from the rest of North America was once known as the San Joaquin Valley. The area around Portland remains caught in a permanent thunderstorm resulting in unrelenting rain for more than twenty years. And a good portion of Florida simply no longer exists.
Even in a new and strange world, memories of the old world lingered on. Women in America gathered to watch baseball games played by the Atlanta Belles or the New York Pixies, while women in Europe watched football games. Hot dogs became a staple in the north. With neither a Civil Rights Movement nor a twentieth century Women’s Movement, some old ideas hung on. Even though men had been gone from most of society for years, there was the tradition around the world of women not going out unescorted by a man. Some women took to dressing and acting the part of men. These faux-men were tolerated and even encouraged. With no men to escort women, someone just had to take their place. Sex in some ways was really just an extension of that, but nobody talked about it. Women pretended that faux-men were men and for the most part, treated them that way. But women who openly had sexual relationships with other women, or at least with other women who looked like women, were ostracized.
Meanwhile in the south, Men lived together in enclaves in Cape Horn, Tasmania, or New Zealand. For the most part living in dormitories, they watched the world develop and change without them. Rugby became the most popular sport in the south and Tacos the most common food. By the late sixties, the disease seemed to have run its course, and men began to slowly move back to the north. Those that did often became the center of polygamous marriages in countries where there were thousands of women for each man.