HUMAN/SUPER First Contact 213

He reached into the chest and lifted out a mortar and pestle made of dark stone and carved with strange symbols Angela didn’t recognize. He tossed ingredients into the mortar—flowers, roots, powders—and ground them together, all the while chanting in some guttural language that didn’t sound entirely human.

“Would you be a doll and boil some water?” he said between verses.

She found a kettle on the table by the television. She filled it and turned it on. Tony used a pair of ornate silver scissors to cut a small rectangle out of Fatima’s towel. He dumped a handful of his herbal mixture onto the fabric and folded it into a shape vaguely resembling a tea bag, sealing it with a staple.

The water finished boiling. Tony placed the bag in a crystal bowl and carried both to the table. He filled the bowl with water and set a timer on his tablet to five minutes.

“Now we wait,” he said.

“So,” Angela said, “was that weird chanting actually part of the process or were you just showing off?”

“I don’t expect you’d believe me either way,” he replied.

She chuckled and said, “Yeah, probably not.”

They stood in silence for a while, watching the minutes tick by on the tablet screen, watching a sickly yellow color seep into the water from the makeshift bag.

“What if this doesn’t work?” Angela asked.

“Then I’ll try something else,” Tony replied, but he said it in a way that told Angela he didn’t have anything else to try.

When the five minutes were up, Tony poured the “tea” into a shiny metal thermos and handed it to Angela.

“So she just drinks this and she can paint again?” Angela asked.

“Probably,” Tony replied.

Probably?” she repeated.

“Not like I’ve had a chance to test it,” he said.

Angela weighed the thermos in her hand for a moment.

“Okay,” she said, “but if this turns her into a frog or something, I’m coming after you.”

“Please do,” he said. “I’d love to see that.”