Billy stepped out of a black portal and into a large, messy, active kitchen. One mountainous cook danced between three different stoves. Multiple pots and pans sat on lit burners on each stove. The giant chef moved between the three stoves like a ninja.
“Who are you?” A woman asked. Billy noticed a short, elderly, Asian woman eyeing him suspiciously. He decided he did not want to deal with her and stopped time. The young man turned to find his way out of the kitchen but stopped in his tracks. The elderly woman stood in front of him again with an annoyed look. In the background, Billy heard the chef still stirring his steaming pots. “Who are you?” She repeated the question.
“I’m Billy. #14, La Muerte,” he replied with a sigh. He expected her to introduce herself too, but she did not.
“What you want here, Billy?” she asked.
“I’m looking for someone. Uh.. a friend; An estrella with a star on her hand,” Billy shrugged. “She’s probably with a diablito.” The woman’s eyes narrowed.
“You know Alliane?” She asked. Billy nodded. “No trouble, okay?” Billy lifted his hands in surrender.
“No trouble. I just need to talk to her.”
“Start time again,” she said. Billy did. The woman nodded and pointed at a darkened doorway. Wait in the back. Too busy in front. I’ll get her.” She turned to head out the door.
“Uh…” Billy stopped her. “Tell her I said please.”
“Okay,” she disappeared through the swinging door. Billy walked to the dim room in the back. It looked to be a private dining area set up for a giant.
“Hey, Billy. What’s up?” He heard Alliane’s voice behind him and turned around. He sighed with relief when he noticed she came without her fiancé.
“Hi. I need some advice.” The woman nodded and walked into the room. She sat on the monstrous table and waited for Billy to explain. “Do you know anything about Derby?” She nodded.
“Yeah, some. Why?”
“You can’t kill someone while competing, right?” Again, she nodded.
“Technically you can if everyone agrees to turn the safety features off. But as a general rule it’s pretty safe.”
“Thanks,” Billy nodded. He wiggled his hand at the air and opened a black portal.
“Wait! That’s it!?” She hopped off the table and stood between Billy and the portal. “You came all the way here just to ask me if it was safe?” Billy nodded.
“Yeah, it’s not a big deal,” he pointed at the black hole in the air behind her. “As far as I’m concerned I walked into the next room to ask you a question.”
“But why derby?” She grinned. “Are you gonna compete?” He shook his head.
“No. My charge is competing.”
“Your charge?” She burst into laughter. “Like a stepson or something?” she giggled. “Worried about Billy Jr. getting hurt, huh?”
“No. I had to be sure he couldn’t kill anyone,” he replied honestly. He wanted to be sure Ray could not permanently harm the other skaters.
“Oh. Why me?” she asked.
“Why you what?” Billy asked.
“Why did you ‘walk into the next room’ to ask me?” Billy shrugged.
“The person I usually talk to isn’t around anymore and my list of friends isn’t as expansive as you might imagine.”
“Friends, huh?” Alliane grinned and stepped out of the way. “I like that. Anytime you need a friend,” she pointed at the portal. “You can always find one in the next room.”