"I don't like overalls… but they're like… a safety suit, right?" Shanice had gone quiet again. Clinging to the stone wall like it was a life raft.
"Yeah. It's protection against anything out there that might bite or sting or just be an allergen," Susan stuck to the bare facts and stayed away from Infotainment Ivan-style information dumps that might scare Shanice worse. She threw in a bonus. "And it helps keep the dirt off."
Shanice's hands lost their white-knuckled grip on the stone and her breathing deepened. "You were right. Safe exposure's working. I'm feeling a little better about being outside."
"That's great! I'm right here for y—" something caught her eye. Jaime and some of the less considerate boys. They were carrying something large and mostly olive-green. "Uh-oh…"
Shanice followed her gaze and came to the same conclusion. "Can we hide in the mud-room?"
Susan took her hand and helped her run for safety.
Of course, the boys spotted them and threw the thing - some kind of giant, froglike amphibian - against the glass door. Where it stuck. They laughed and ran off before Shanice's oldest sister could get to them.
The frog remained.
Susan had to go around the long way - washing her boots in the process - to retrieve the animal.
It was almost as big as the biggest pet cat Susan had ever met. And almost half again as heavy. And twice as phlegmatic.
"It's okay, Shanice… It's non-violent."
Shanice clung to the door and nervously petted it. "Euw…"
"Wanna help me take this thing up to the Analysis crew? You can have naming rights."
Susan had to carry it, they agreed. And let Shanice cling to her elbow. And let Shanice steer.
After that, it was agreeable back-and-forth about what to call it.
The Basketball Toad.
The Medicine Ball Frog.
Neither of them even tried winnowing their list down by the time they reached Analysis Central. Doctor Theresa was manning the big machine, that scanned living things without needing to make them dead, when they got to the office.
"That is one enormous frog," diagnosed Doctor Theresa. "Who's taking credit?"
Shanice got all shy and pointed to Susan as she placed the thing in a proper sample-box. Susan just pointed back. "Shanice saw it first."
Technically true. Susan had been more worried about what those self-privileged snots had been up to, rather than looking at the frog.
"Hm. That mucus is better than Aloe at dealing with burns. And it looks like it'd eat any bug that crosses its path. According to the data, it can jump really long distances. Does it have a name?"
Susan looked to Shanice.
"…gigantor…" murmured Shanice.
"NovoAnura Gigantor," murmured Doctor Theresa. "We're going to observe this big… huh. It's a girl frog. Well. We're going to observe this big lady in a habitat for a while and see what it likes. And given its pest-control and aloe capabilities, we'll see how well she handles domestication and domestic situations."
"You want us to find more?"
"That would be nice. Where did you find her?"
"Uhm," said Shanice. "The boys threw her at us. I dunno where they found her."
"Jaime and his crew of dunwannas," Susan supplied with an eye-roll. "They tried to cut away a path to the beach, yesterday? Guess who did most of the cutting?"
"Yes, I saw your notes on the sample bags you brought in. They'll learn. One way or another."
It was Shanice who proposed going around the forested borders of Wiwazheer to look for the frogs and take note of their habitat. And that was how Susan found out that Shanice didn't even have an out pack. She had the supplies, but none of them were together in one handy package.
The journey back to Shanice's home and organising the out pack with her took up the rest of the afternoon.
Exploration would wait until the next day.
There was no real hurry to explore. The hurry was in ploughing and planting and growing food, or finding food, before their supplies of synthetics and tube-grown proteins ran out. Once a regular supply of nutrition was no longer a concern, they literally had all the time in the world to bumble around and find things.
At least Shanice knew that she could get out of her house as long as there was no pressure to do so.
Good news for her family. Good news for Shanice. And good news for Susan, because Jaime could no longer rely on her as a rescue from his own, terrible plans. And better news for her parents, because making friends was better than alienation via being a teacher-talking know-it-all and too smart for her own good.
Only time would tell which friends would find her valuable enough to allow her to continue hanging around.
She said her farewells to Shanice and went home to another dinner with the inevitable colonial disgusting greens. If they ever had a moratorium on human rights and torture on this world, Susan figured colonial greens would be banned by it.