Wussit is pronounced like you were saying the word “wood”, but leave off the d, and add the word “sit” at the end.
Earthlings had been traveling outward for well over a century. Contrary to what many expected, there was no great galactic society out their waiting for us to break the bonds of our gravity and solar system. SETI was still listening, but no one out there was talking. At least no one we could hear. While we are speaking of hearing, there had been no word from the Nagarian Base for three months. It turns out there was a planet that circled Barnard’s star, which is the second closest star to Earth. Alpha Centauri is the closest at 4.3 light years and Barnard’s star sat at the six light years mark.
Another part of science fiction that remained fiction was “faster than light” (FTL) travel. We had almost reached the speed of light, but not exceeded it. So all of those theories about going back in time, if you went faster than light, were still theories. What turned out to be the big surprise was that the combination of items to create an atmosphere breathable by humans wasn’t as rare as the scientist thought it would be.
Barnard’s star was discovered in 19xx by E.E. Barnard. Peter Van de Kamp started taking data on the star in 1938. Twenty-five years later in 1963, he felt confident enough to present his first results. An anomaly in the star’s rotation indicated the presence of a planted about 1.6 times the mass of Jupiter. Its orbit didn’t fit a nice sine curve, so it appeared the planet had a bit of a cusp. One of the early projects for the Hubble Space Telescope was to look for this planet circling the second closest star to Earth. It couldn’t find it. So the presence of a planet was written off. The problem was that there was errors in the reflective mirror on the Hubble. It wasn’t until around 2030, and the time of the Mars mission that the subject came up again. Sure enough the planet that was, and then wasn’t, was back to being again.
The Nagarian base was built on the planet Nagaria, which is the only planet circling Barnard’s star. It was found to have an atmosphere that was breathable by Earth humans. After communication had stopped for three months, an expedition was mounted to find out why. It would take the mission seven years to reach the star which was six light years away. When they arrived, they found the base abandoned and being overtaken by rust. The planet had plant life and several species of insects all of which were totally alien to Earth, but the plants did produce oxygen. The insects had been studied at great length and were deemed to be harmless. They didn’t even have a hankering for human blood like our terra based mosquitoes. But aside from the rust, there was no sign of the forty-two souls who made up the staff of the base.
What the rescue mission did find was a small luminescent green creature with two arms, two legs, wings and opposable thumbs. The hand only had two fingers opposite each opposable thumb, and on two toes on each foot. The wings were made up of an upper and lower section that moved independently. The face had two eyes, a nose and a mouth. There were no visible ears. The eyes were faceted like an insect’s eyes, but the rest of the face was human looking enough to express emotion easily. This little creature they found was obviously terrified of the new arrivals. There were no apparent sexual organs that corresponded to humans, so they didn’t know if it was male, female, or if those terms would even apply to this creature.
As helpless as the little fellow was, there was a missing staff of the base, and this creature was the prime suspect. The rescue crew transmitted the information back to Earth, and was known only by the highest level of government and scientist. It was decided that the rescue crew stay at the Nagarian base and study the creature. It would be too dangerous to return to earth with it. So started the years of research into everything about this amazing find.
There were a multitude of names given to the creature to refer to it in reports. Some were numbers and letters, others along the latin scientific strain, but in the end, it named itself. First, let me say that the almost universal first reaction to seeing the creature was, “What is it?” Usually the state of mind of the viewer was more than excited, so they tended to run the words together. One morning after about two weeks of poking and prodding it, they were met by it greeting them one morning, by speaking rather clearly “wussit”. All of these astute scientific minds did not make the connection between the human’s reaction and the first word it spoke. It was the navigation assistant, by the name of Mercy Williams, who made the connection.
Once she made a connection the research portion of the crew didn’t make, they did allow her more time around the new found discovery. As she spent more time around it, something happened. It seemed to bond with her, and react to her totally different than the others who were studying it. Even though it was mimicking what humans were saying about it, the wussit seemed to stick, and soon all at the Nagarian base were referring to it as such. As blown away as the researchers were by its attempt to speak, they couldn’t seem to get it to say anything else. As Mercy spent more time with the wussit, it would repeat words that she said quite readily. In fact, it seemed to be willing to do almost anything to please her.
With Mercy’s navigation skills not in much demand, she became a full time fixture in the study of the wussit. With her help its vocabulary started to grow quickly. At first they thought it was only saying the words with no comprehension of their meaning. One puzzle of the wussit’s behavior became one of the first breakthroughs in them realizing it was actually able to comprehend things. When it had to use the bathroom it would race around its enclosure, picking up and throwing things. Then usually with an empty water bowl in its hand it would run from corner to corner, then around its bedding, and eventually use the bowl to go to the bathroom in. Aftwards it would take the bowl and hurl it at the door where attendants would come in, or go rub it up and down the doorway. With Mercey’s help, they determined it wanted a receptacle just for its waste, and for the waste to be disposed of quickly. The wussit would make up words to express concepts that it couldn’t verbalize, but with certain words being associated to certain functions, like the waste container becoming a toilet, it used them in context.
It became apparent that this creature had been here when the crew was still here. So it became unclear what things they had taught the wussit, and what was part of its own nature. When queried about the crew it would just say, “gone” or shrug its little shoulders. Members of the crew who weren’t involved in the research directly, where turned into detectives in trying to determine what happened to the original staff here. Ever expanding searches turned up no sign of the staff or any more wussits. In fact, it turned up nothing more than what the original staff had sent back findings on already.
Animals speaking wasn’t totally new. One of the most famous was a parrot from England in the early 2000’s named N’kisi, who had a vocabulary of 950 words. It takes about 100 words for half of all reading in English. So the parrot could cope with a wide range of material. Another even more famous animal orator from that time period was Koko, who used sign language. designed for use by the deaf to communicate. She had a vocabulary of over 1000 signs, and was able to understand about 2000 words of spoken english. According to some studies she even ranked between 70 and 95 on human IQ test, where 100 is considered normal. In just over three months, with Mercy’s help, the wussit’s vocabulary had passed 600 words, and obvious cognitive understanding of the words was apparent.
By the time the three month mark had been met, there had not been any indications that the wussit carried any disease or microbe that was dangerous to humans. With much pressure from Mercy and the wussit, they were allowed to interact together. First through holes cut into the habitation unit, and later with Mercy completely inside of the chamber. The wussit was ecstatic. Its behavior ranged from extravagant displays of agility, clowning around, to a strong desire to just cuddle up next to her, and eventually sleep in her arms. Mercy would describe it as the wussit having the desire to please like a dog, the curiosity of a cat, and the limited ability to speak and express ideas. The skin of the wussit was like a soft velour and the wings were like silk strung over strong wires. The wussit LOVED to be stroked and petted. It made a whirring noise, somewhat like a satisfied cat purring when it is petted.
It became common for Mercy to come and go from the wussit’s habitat chamber. From their dialogue the habitat had been modified to have privacy areas for the wussit, a flushable toilet, a separate eating area, and a play area where a tuckered out little wussit would fall asleep sometimes. The wussit would allow others in, but kept a healthy distance from them and seldom spoke to them at all. It was after five months there that the most amazing thing happened.
A worker within view of the habitat was adjusting some scientific equipment, when a glass panel broke and severed his left hand. The wussit was beside itself and could not be convinced to settle back down until after the injured worker was brought back after surgery to show the wussit that he was okay. The wussit actually cried for the first time that anyone had seen. The big eyes produced big tears as the wussit coo ‘ed and softly stroked the arm with the missing hand. The wussit refused to interact with Mercy or anyone else, it wouldn’t eat and it just went and curled up in the darkest corners of its enclosure. Sometime that night, it happened. When they arrived to check on the wussit, there were two.
Each of them were slightly smaller than the original wussit, but not the same as if you divided the mass in half. There were slight physical differences between the two, but overall they had the same structure. The biggest difference was that one had the full vocabulary that Mercy had been teaching, and the other only a word or two, probably taught by the original wussit. Not to be deterred, the wussit was demanding “hurt man, hurt man here” over and over. Finally they brought the man down and the wussit demanded, “inside, inside”. The worker hesitant, and the research team with weapons ready for anything allowed the man to enter. The talkative wussit chattered something incomprehensible to the humans there, and started to push the less talkative wussit toward the injured worker.
The look of hesitancy if not fear slid from the injured mans face as the wussit approached and started to caress him, and nuzzle against his good arm. It became apparent to everyone in the room that the two had bonded in that moment. As the first wussit had learned and spoke almost exclusively with Mercy, the second wussit was picking up words from Roger, the injured man within a matter of minutes. With the need to differentiate between the two wussits, the first became Alpha and the second was named Beta. The two wussits had some interaction between each other, but mainly reserved their attention for the humans they bonded with.
As time went on, Beta was anxious to do things for Roger that the loss of his hand limited him with. Eventually wussits would be returned to Earth and became the most sought after pet in the world. It turns out that they bonded with a single human for life. When that human died, the wussit would pass within the week. It isn’t know even to this day what the life span of a wussit is. One of the oldest is 102, and seems to be quite healthy. They can get sick and die before their bonded human, but veterinarians have expanded their practice to these creatures as well. No matter what attempts have been made to get the wussits to recreate or procreate have met with utter failure. They seem to sense if the right human needs one and duplicate only then. Also none of the wussits ever duplicate over three times. They do seem to readily duplicate for disabled people, but if one is ever abused or mistreated, they are never offered another.
There are studies of just about everything there is to know about wussits. The affect that they had on society when the secret was finally shared were overwhelming. The closest thing to intelligent life that we had discovered in the Universe, the effect and implications of the wussits on religion, the social structure and interaction between wussits, and thousands of other interesting things are fodder for future stories.