"Hang on," Clyde said. He dug out his mobile telephone, pressed a few buttons, and then held it up. "Can you say that again?"
The blue alien on the viewscreen looked puzzled. "We require the human bonding ceremony," it repeated, speaking slowly and clearly.
Clyde pressed another button on the telephone, and grinned. "That's just brilliant! Actual aliens who actually want to make us do it! Wait 'til I send this to Luke and Maria." He tapped at the keypad again; the telephone obligingly replayed his recording of the alien's demand. "Maybe I'll use it for my ringtone."
The alien's expression was shading from bafflement to annoyance.
"Human," it said. "We are the observers. You are the subjects."
"If you say so." Clyde returned his telephone to his pocket, and sat down on the double bed that was the cell's only piece of furniture. "I suppose we'd better get started, then."
"I don't believe this!" Rani turned her best glare on him. "Those aliens want to make us– well, you know. And you're just going along with it!"
"It's a terrible sacrifice," Clyde said, trying and failing not to smirk. "But what else can we do?"
"Clyde, I'm not doing it. I don't want my– I mean, if we–" She stopped, thought, and resumed, carefully picking her words. "Look, whatever we may or may not decide to do in the future, I don't want it to be here and now with those creeps watching and broadcasting it all over the galaxy on some episode of Alien Big Brother: After Dark."
"They wouldn't do that," Clyde said. He looked uncertainly at the alien. "Would you?"
"The use to which we put our knowledge is of no concern to you," the alien replied.
"Well, you can take your knowledge and shove it!" Rani exploded. "Why can't you get your smut off the Internet like everyone else?"
The alien gave her a long, slow look. Then the viewscreen went blank.
Clyde looked from Rani to the screen and back. "Do you think he's actually...?"
"Actually gone off to download the Internet?" Rani felt her anger subside, leaving a gnawing worry about how the aliens might punish her intransigence. "I'd have thought they'd have it already."
"They've got to want more than just a video of two people, you know, doing it. Don't they?" Clyde sounded as if he was trying to convince himself of the aliens' competence. "There's got to be all sorts of instruments round this room. So they can measure what happens in detail. You couldn't get that just off some website."
"Tough luck for them," Rani said firmly. "Because we're not going to do anything. I don't think they've got a clue what they're doing. What they should've done was put out adverts. Say it was a reality show. They'd be up to here in volunteers."
Clyde shrugged. "They wouldn't see the point, would they? As far as they're concerned, we're perfectly good specimens. Why take the trouble of getting any more?" He looked at Rani's expression. "They chose us to represent humanity. We might as well put on the best show we can."
The screen lit up again. The alien now looked, in Rani's opinion, as if it had seen things nobody should see, and was vainly trying to unsee them.
"Thank you for your cooperation," it said. "We have all the material we require. You shall be returned to your planet at once."
"Huh." Clyde seemed to deflate at this anticlimactic ending to their adventure. "You guys don't know what you've miss–"
The screen went blank. Clyde sat in silence for a few moments, then looked up at Rani.
"Sorry," he said.
"Trying to talk you into going along with them. I thought– never mind what I thought."
"I'm not sure your brain was doing the thinking at all." Rani couldn't help smiling at his crestfallen expression. "Look, I know you can't resist a cliché. Just try and remember I'm not some green-skinned space babe in a metal bikini."
Clyde perked up a little. "Have to remember that one for next time there's a fancy dress party."
Rani sat on the bed beside him. "Just for that," she said, "I'll let you explain things to my dad. And you'd better come up with something good. If we keep on mysteriously disappearing together he'll start getting..." She laughed suddenly. "Well, maybe it wouldn't be completely the wrong idea, this time."