Ahead of ts release on 5th December, here’s another passage from Canto Bight, this time from Saladin Ahmed’s “Rules of the Game”.
As the Cantonican Dream dropped out of hyperspace, Kedpin Shoklop sneezed loudly and blew his nose-slits, then smiled apologetically, blinking his big single eye in what he hoped his seatmate would understand was a placating gesture.
His seatmate, a well-dressed, broad-shouldered specimen of some fanged-and-horned species Kedpin didn’t recognize, growled. But Kedpin had plenty of experience dealing with grumpy customers. The key, he always told his co-workers, was a cheerful attitude.
“So! Canto Bight!” Kedpin said to his seatmate, filling his voice with fellow-feeling. “Playground of the most glamorous beings in the galaxy! Big-money card games and high-stakes fathier races! The galaxy’s biggest artificial ocean! And the fanciest food this side of Coruscant. I can’t believe I won this trip!” Against all odds, Kedpin had been named VaporTech’s Salesbeing of the Year and received an all-expenses-paid two-standard-week getaway to Canto Bight! Everyone had been so shocked! When the admin-droid had read his name out loud, Kedpin had hardly believed it himself, though he’d imagined the moment ten thousand times over the decades. He’d won. He’d doubted the competition for years, wondered whether he was getting a fair shake. But Kedpin kept on following the rules and doing his best, like he’d always been taught. Like he’d done for a hundred years.
And now he was on his way to claim his reward. The voyage had already been more luxurious than anything Kedpin had ever experienced. Such snacks they had! But that was nothing compared with what was coming. He would finally get to see the legendary Canto Casino, get a zero-g massage at Zord’s Spa and Bathhouse, and, most exciting of all, watch a live fathier race!
“I can’t believe I’m really here!” Kedpin said again. His seatmate simply ignored him now, turning away rudely to stare out the viewport. But Kedpin was on his first vacation in a hundred years, and he wasn’t going to let anything bring him down.
The captain of the Cantonican Dream announced that they were now in orbit around Cantonica. Kedpin’s seatmate had brusquely claimed the viewport seat when the trip began, but by twisting and craning Kedpin could get a decent view. What he saw made all three of his hearts race.
Pink, blue, and green nebulae shimmered against the jet-black space-scape, which went on forever. Every bit of it was studded with sparkling stars. Closer—so close Kedpin felt he could reach out and touch them—Cantonica’s moons hung glowing in the darkness. Kedpin had been offworld a few times to meet with VaporTech clients or to attend conferences, but the company had always booked him in cramped, viewportless personnel transports. He’d never seen space like this. It was beautiful.
Cantonica itself was a dull yellow-brown orb swirling with sand-colored clouds. As they began to descend, the bright lights of a massive city—Canto Bight itself, Kedpin realized!—formed a glowing patch on the planetscape. But one feature dominated the view: a great turquoise spot, unnaturally precise in its borders. The Sea of Cantonica.
The viewport shutters lowered and Kedpin was instructed to sit back as the ship came in to land. A short while later, after a brief struggle with his luggage floater, Kedpin was herded into the line for Cantonican Planetary Controls. He was called to a booth staffed by a uniformed human male with a neat beard and an irritated expression.
“Good morning and welcome to Cantonica,” the man said, though he didn’t at all sound as if he meant it. He took Kedpin’s datapad. “Name?”
“Kedpin Shoklop.” Turn their growl into a grin, Kedpin repeated to himself silently. He smiled at the annoyed-looking officer and added, putting extra nectar into his words, “But call me Ked! All my friends do!”
“No,” the man in the uniform said. “Species?”
“VaporTech! I won this trip, you see. I’m the VaporTech Vaporator Salesbeing of the Year!”
For the first time the man really looked up from his terminal, and Kedpin wished he hadn’t. “Yeah, that sounds about right.” He looked as if Kedpin were a pest he wanted to squash! “Is it your intent to act as an active agent of any political, parapolitical, military, or paramilitary organization while on Cantonica?” he asked finally.
Kedpin blinked his eye. He didn’t quite know what he was being asked. He blinked again.
“He wants to know if you’re a spy for the First Order or the Resistance,” someone in the line behind Kedpin said.
“Ha! Ha!” Kedpin laughed. “A spy?” There was no fighting on his homeworld—not yet. But Kedpin had heard unbelievable stories from VaporTech salesbeings who’d been caught in the battles. It all sounded perfectly terrible, and Kedpin wanted nothing to do with any of it. “No, no of course not!”
The man looked at his datapad. “You work for VaporTech, huh?”
“Yes, sir! One hundred and two years selling vaporators! Cut me and I bleed VaporTech processed moisture!” Kedpin laughed a small laugh. “That’s just a little joke I make.”
“Uh-huh,” the officer said. “Well, you’re missing your sponsorship chip.”
The man ran his thick hand through his thick beard and sighed, even more annoyed for some reason Kedpin didn’t understand. “Come with me, sir.”
Kedpin was taken out of one line and moved to another. The beings in this line didn’t look like tourists. They looked different. Scarier. They looked to Kedpin like the sort that caused trouble. Kedpin didn’t know why he was being placed in this line, but he knew there had to be a reason. Canto Bight was a classy operation. There were rules.