Cuckoo by R. Schlaack

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SUMMARY: Congratulations! It's a...parasite?

On December 28th, 2187, Joe Wallace helped deliver an 8 lb, 2 oz bundle of Joy from his wife Mary.

The baby wasn't his.

Strangely enough, it wasn't his wife's, either.

"Then whose is it?" she demanded, face lit up with alarm. The questionable infant sat in her lap. At a week old, it was already sitting up, rolling with baby fat, with a face that looked cross-eyed and brutish. It had come out looking like that.

The doctor, one Samuel Berkowitz, took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes.

"Mary, I'm going to be as straightforward as possible about this. The infant isn't even human, exactly. It's what we call an "Ichneumon baby"."

Mary looked down at the baby, who sweiveled its head to fix her with a glare that said, Well? He did look a little green, now that the doctor had mentioned it, and there were odd dimples on his forehead above each eye.

Joe had been sitting silent this whole time. Now he roused himself. "What's an...what's the word?"

"Ichneumon."

"Yeah, what's that?"

"An ichneumon is a kind of wasp that lays its eggs in wood-boring insect larvae. In the case of Ichneumon babies, though, a more accurate analogy would be that of the cuckoo bird."

"So this...thing was hatched inside my wife?!"

"Basically, yes, that's the concept."

"Then what happened to our baby?"

"Unfortunately, when the Ichneumon egg cell comes in contact with the host embryo, it releases toxins that cause the embryo cells to lyse, and then it consumes the host cells and divides. Like the cuckoo chick, the Ichneumon tends to eliminate the competition."

Joe shot Mary an accusing look, as if to say, Did you hear that? Mary shrugged. The baby blew bubbles from its fat lips.

"How could this happen?" Mary asked, on the verge of tears. "I wasn't ever attacked..."raped", I guess..."

"It probably wasn't anything dramatic," the Doctor said. "Do you remember anything unusual during your pregnancy?"

Mary thought back. She had gone to the hospital several months ago because of a bout of bronchitis, and the doctors had kept her there overnight. That night she had awakened with a sharp pain in her abdomen, and the distinct impression that someone had been sitting on top of her. There had been a rash, and an aching blister next to her navel, but that had gone away by the next day.

She told the Doctor as much, and he nodded grimly.

"I figured it was that," he said. "An Ichneumon female infiltrated the hospital. Normally our security measures would have been good enough to catch her, but there's always that one in a thousand, especially if the nurses are careless with the laundry. She'd look identical to a human female at first glance, and could easily pass herself off as a nurse."

Joe looked dazed and horrified. Mary bounced the Ichneumon absently on her knee. Doctor Berkowitz went to a computer monitor, tapped in a few lines, and brought up a display on the screen.

"What happens is that, after the female Ichneumon mates, her fallopian tubes harden and extend into a mobile ovipositor.

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