"Curious? Of course it's curious that's how we managed to secure the funding; if it wasn't curious there'd be no point in doing the research in the first place. Listen, we have only one more year of funding and I, for one, do not think that the research council will be pleased if after three years our final report says that 'its curious'. Nor will they be overly impressed if all we can stump up is another bloody tapeworm. What is it about you and tapeworms anyway?"
"This isn't a tapeworm, professor, this is far bigger and its life cycle is ... well interesting."
"Precisely professor, the host does all the donkey work in finding food and digesting it. The parasite just steals it. The ultimate ready meal, I suppose. Anyway it quite quickly reaches quite a size."
"Very. By the end the sufferer’s body is distended so much that they find it difficult to walk easily."
"But Qua-Kon we know that parasites are creatures of stealth. They operate by subverting their host's biological processes and using them to their own ends, so conspicuous a parasite would surely get killed as soon as it emerged."
"And it if were killed it would be unable to divide..."
"So if it can't reproduce how does such a parasite continue to survive? This is against every biological law. I'll never be able to publish this. I'll be a laughing stock! We'll all be a laughing stock!"
"Ah but that's the really, really clever part. It doesn't get killed."
"Well as I said earlier, it takes control of the hosts mental processes. Look you'd imagine, would you not, that if a great, blood-spattered parasite tore its way of your abdomen you'd look around for the nearest coal shovel and batter the life out it if."
"Certainly, I would."
"But they don't. They wrap it in a blanket and cuddle it.”
"This is all too much Qua-Kon."
"I've not even got my pants off yet, if you pardon the expression, professor. So great are its powers of manipulation that it continues to parasitise the host, or I should say hosts -- you know how these earthling tend to inexplicably hang around in pairs? Well it parasitises them for years."
"Years, professor. The hosts spend many thousands of their earth pounds providing the parasite with all it needs -- food, drink, even small artefacts that the parasite seems to derive some sort of pleasure from. Although we currently have no conception of what biological purpose these artefacts play in the parasite's life cycle."
"From what you say, Qua-Kon, this sounds more like a symbiotic relationship. Mind control or not, no rational organism would surely devote so much time and effort satisfying the desires of such a parasite. There must be something that the parasite -- or symbiont as I would prefer to think of it -- gives back to the host. I simply refuse to believe that such a degree of psychological manipulation is possible."
"I know professor. The thought had occurred to us too. But our scientists report that the parasite provides nothing to the hosts. Not only that, but if the hosts aren't supplying enough food, or enough drink, or enough of these apparently functionless artifacts the parasite makes these noises."
"Noises? What kind of noises?"
"Oh horrible, blood-curdling noises. Screams the like of which you've never heard. They also throw themselves on the floor flailing their limbs so much that we initially thought it was experiencing some kind of seizure."
"And then what?"
"Oh the hosts are soon off getting food, or drink or artefacts which seems to placate the parasite temporarily. I tell you professor some of our scientists have themselves taken to obtaining a selection of small artefacts just in case the hosts fail to stump up the goods. That's how nerve-janglingly awful the whole thing is."
"And for how many years does this last?"
"We're not exactly sure, but we get the feeling it may well last for the host's lifetime."
"A lifetime! Hell's teeth I thought that those parasitic wasps we discovered were bad, but this is immeasurably worse. How do they believe their god could permit such a thing?"