“The War for Southern Independence was six years done, and the triumphant Federal Union was pursuing its dream of Manifest Destiny from sea to shining sea. Those who fought and died in vain for states’ rights had no choice but to forswear their independence and accept Restoration. Some never did, and those few found themselves drifting - going to the furthest edges of the continent to the lands less civilized, some barely settled, where the Union might not dictate their lives. These were rough places, and work was hard to come by. Those who got by lived by a simple code: ‘Any job, no questions asked.’”
The setting: An alternate America, circa 1871, where history has followed the same broad outlines as ours, with some very different details. There was a kind of Civil War, and the South lost there, too. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and Ulysses S. Grant is now President. However, science has produced a “non- explosive” form of hydrogen, called phlogiston, which is used in lighter-than-air vessels. Clockwork automatons are becoming more common.