A former slave race, Sunlanders form a significant minority of Kieselburg's population.
Sunlanders tend to be tall -- average height is 6'5" for women, 6'7" for men -- and very thin, to the point of appearing emaciated. They have little to no body hair, with what they have tending to grow in thin or patchy. Their best-known feature is their green skin, which can vary slightly from dark green to an olive-toned black. It is the physical manifestation of the photosynthetic symbiotes that were built into the Sunlander skin cells; the Gene Lords allowed the coloration to remain as a marker that would set Sunlanders apart from "real" humans, making escaped slaves easy to track and (in the words of one of the scientists working on the project) "to facilitate a productive perception of the slave subrace as 'other'." In this last, they certainly succeeded, as the wide variety of racial epithets centering around "green" can testify. The symbiotes have a number of more practical effects as well. Sunlanders rarely if ever sweat (the symbiote effectively absorbs and converts excess heat, internal and external) and consume about 2/3 of what a normal human would need for food and water. They work comfortably in temperatures up to 115F (46C) and can withstand temperatures up to 130F (54C) relatively easily. They are also immune to melanoma and similar skin conditions. Contrary to popular belief, Sunlanders do not "freeze" in any temperature below desert heat. Their low body-fat ratio, however, does make them susceptible to cold, and the symbiotic boosts to metabolism disappear -- a Sunlander in a cold, dark climate eats as much or more than a normal human. They are also highly at risk for seasonal affective disorder and various metabolic issues in the cold. Few Sunlanders will voluntarily live in very cold climates for this reason, though they have adapted well to space.
Like the other known subraces, the Sunlanders have a built-in inability to produce a fertile cross with a human -- the so-called "mule control". While documentation is scarce, the Gene Lords apparently felt that this would allow them to keep control of their created genomes without endless, unpredictable half-, quarter-, and eighth-humans getting in the mix. They also apparently thought that, if Sunlanders ever escaped their "controlled" (i.e. enslaved) conditions, they would breed themselves out of existence in the same way that red wolves did(1). While this proved a flawed assumption -- Sunlanders being somewhat more self-aware than wolves -- it is enough of a danger to create a strong taboo against interbreeding in most Sunlander cultures.
GeneralThe Sunlander race was commissioned in the 2120s by Mariano Alvarado, better known as the Sun King, to work the massive energy farms that he had built across the Great Southwestern Desert of North America. Breeding populations were later sold to Australia and middle Asia, and after the breakup of Alvarado's empire in 2207 a sizable number of refugees relocated to the Mediterranean Free States; these remain the main Earthside populations.
While the Gene Lord Wars indirectly allowed a certain amount of freedom as owners were killed or deposed, the human subraces remained largely subjugated up through the early years of the Empire. The Council for Peace, while vaguely aware of their existence, had too many problems of its own to do more than issue the occasional plea for tolerance, and for most human-normals the sight of green skin or Atlantean gills meant capture and a quick profit at the slave market. Escape meant life as a fugitive; uprisings lead only to slaughter. At his crowning, the Emperor referred to the plight of the subraces as "intolerable" and made an explicit promise to address it, but most assumed this was simply political posturing -- and, indeed, at first the Empire was entirely too occupied with the aliens to follow through.
In 2305, four years after the founding of the Empire, Atlantean slaves in the Indian Ocean city of Lageci staged what was less an uprising than a mass collapse from malnutrition and overwork. The lord of the city responded by sending out death squads that would kill over 700 Atlantean men, women, and children, as well as 92 normal humans foolish enough to get in the way, before the Imperial Army put the city under martial law. Over the next year, as the Imperial Courts held highly publicized genocide trials, the Empire descended on the most notorious slave markets and took them apart. The merest hint of a Sunlander and Atlantean uprising was enough to bring Imperial mediators out of the walls, demanding a bloodless settlement. At least five governments which had depended on slave labor fell; the economies of a dozen others were destroyed. The domains of Earth got the message. The next decade would see anti-slavery laws put in place by nearly a third of the existing domains.
It was arguably the Empire's most blatant exercise of power, and its success was debatable. Conditions improved, but the minute the Empire's attention -- and influence -- waned, the backlash came down squarely on the subraces. One consequence was the massive gain in power by the Leagua del Orden Natural, the League of the Natural Order. The Leagua held that some people were inherently, genetically better suited to certain roles in life than others, and backed their claims with scientific research studies that they willingly distributed to anyone who asked. From this research they developed a set of tests which they encouraged companies and governments to use in determining the intelligence and fitness of their employees or citizens. That the tests consistently favored blueblooded descendants of the Gene Lords over normals and normals over the subraces was, the Leagua insisted, not expected per se, but clearly was the natural order of things. That the Order's founders, sponsors, and researchers were universally blueblooded was also natural and in no way affected their findings.
The Order took root most strongly in South and Central America, and so it was the Sunlanders who took the brunt of the new policies. Bloodlessly but firmly, they found themselves stripped of voting rights, barred from holding government office, kept out of the educational systems, and marginalized until only the lowliest of jobs and homes were open to them. Tens of thousands migrated, either upwards to space or northwards into less "enlightened" territory. It was such a wave of refugees that destabilized Lakehaven in 2320 and partly led to the revolution that would eventually result in the city of Kieselburg.
Sunlanders in KieselburgPrior to Kiesel's revolution, the Sunlander refugees were starved, beaten, "escorted" out of Lakehaven, and occasionally gunned down by firing squads on flimsy security pretexts. Post-revolution, they were penned in ghettos, starved, and tricked into dodgy service contracts by Kieselburg's rising energy barons. Recruiters for Desert Energy, Feuerborn Enterprises, and other companies desperate to get the most from New Ozark's newly acquired southwestern territories targeted young, poorly educated Sunlanders, preferably those with extended families to support, coaxing them away with promises of good pay on the tallboy solar collection rigs. Tallboy work was hot, dirty, and dangerous even for Sunlanders: for the equally desperate normals working beside them, in temperatures that could reach 55C, it was deadly. But Sunlanders quickly found their pay evaporating under the burden of "training" fees and ludicrously high prices charged by company-owned stores. Their families back in the city rarely, if ever, saw them, or more than a trickle of money from them.
In 2345, workers for Desert Energy staged a mass strike. It was violently quashed. Further strikes, however, came in 2348, 2350, and steadily through the early 50s, until a group of workers seized a Feuerborn tallboy in 2357 and sparked the first Tallboy Revolution. This set the stage for a forty-year back-and-forth war, with a largely Sunlander population of workers on one side and the New Ozark leadership on the other. The workers were badly educated, worse-armed, and stuck in the middle of a desert with their enemy controlling all supply routes. On the other hand, they were also sitting on the tallboys, explosive and extremely expensive structures which the city of Kieselburg and serveral northern cities depended on for energy. The war -- more accurately, wars -- seesawed back and forth until the government reached an uneasy truce with the Worker's Collective, as they were now called, in the late nineties. As part of the truce there was a sudden push to "reach out" to the estranged Sunlander population, with various affirmative action programs, scholarships, and recruitment drives aimed at bridging the gap between human-normals and Sunlanders. Unbacked by anything like public support from either side, however, the initiatives were already dying before the truce's failure in 2410, leaving nothing but a trail of trained, educated, and embittered idealists in their wake.
In 2419 the New Ozark government signed another truce with the Worker's Collective. The companies that had originally owned the tallboys signed them over for pittances; in return, the Collective promised to sell energy to those same companies at prices so low as to be practically theft. The truce has held, uneasily, for the past seven years.
In the meantime, the Sunlanders of Kieselburg -- who by the 2370s had few ties left to their tallboy brethren -- found themselves the brunt of hostile legislation and bitter resentment, frequently flaring into violence when a brownout happened or the price of energy spiked. City Sunlanders responded by turning increasingly inwards, their ghettos becoming defensive castles from which they rarely ventured. While the 2419 truce eased the hostility of the average, street-level normal, the city Sunlanders were still under siege from Uptown and government agencies and in no way interested in letting down their guard.
Modern TimesSunlanders in Kieselburg are no longer subject to government-backed beatings or firing squads, only constant, low-level prejudice and spite. Within the city it is paid back blow for blow. Sunlanders outside the Greenwharves after dark may be harassed or arrested, but cangrejo inside the ghetto will rarely escape a bad beating at the hands of the Nightmasks, the Wharves' unofficial militia. Name-callings, beatings, and petty bureaucratic nastiness are all likely to met with retaliation from the Masks. Increasingly, the Nightmasks have also turned to disciplining their own people, moving from public whippings of police collaborators to punishment of anyone working for or associating with the cangrejo to -- inevitably -- beatings for anyone criticizing the Nightmasks or their leadership, the secretive body known colloqually as The Old Women. (While the enforcement arm, the Masks, are primarily young and evenly split in terms of gender, the leadership tends towards the matriarchal -- an imbalance dating back to the exodus of primarily young men to the tallboys.) While most Sunlanders still revere the Mask as a protective force, many are growing uneasy at their reach, their increasing viciousness, and their distrust of anything cangrejo -- including things like education and medicine.
These are the Sunlanders most of Kieselburg knows -- proud, hostile, and aloof. Outside of Kieselburg, in the Worker's Collectives, a less sharp division reigns. While human-normals were always a minority on the tallboys, enough existed, survived, and have participated in the revolution for the Collective Sunlanders to maintain a more lenient attitude, structuring their hatred along class rather than race lines. They trade, though tentatively, with Kieselburg's crime lord Tom Thorn, and their strongly socialist society remains open to anyone willing to work and survive the hostile environment of the tallboys. The Collective refuses to accept a hierarchical society, organizing themselves rather in open committees of equals loosely guided by "Respected Elders." Whether this anarchistic approach would work if the Collective was larger, the money less tight, or the business of working tallboys less time-consuming remains open to debate.