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Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor was rocking out.
He cut a slightly comical figure: a tall, wiry man with tight curls of iron-grey hair and the first hint of lines on his craggy, oddly handsome face, intent on revisiting his long-lost rebellious youth.
He was striding around the brightly-lit control room, bathed in the golden glow of the central column. He had a gleaming tobacco sunburst Gibson Les Paul slung low across his torso; the Marshall stack behind him was shaking under the barrage of sound. His long black coat flapped like a cape as he whirled and gyrated, but his opaque black shades somehow managed to stay firmly in place. With the PA turned up way beyond danger level, the music was heavy enough to cause a localised spacetime distortion.
The last-but-one of the Time Lords was playing along to his Desert Planet Discs.
Halfway through ‘Voodoo Chile’ the door to the living quarters swung open. Clara Oswald stood there, shaking her head in disbelief. Her shoulder-length brown hair was slightly dishevelled, as if she’d just got out of bed. She was wearing a black poloneck jumper, a tartan miniskirt and black calf-length boots, and had a little bag slung over her shoulder. The pretty young teacher and occasional time traveller tried not to laugh at the sight of her friend windmilling his way through the massive Jimi Hendrix Experience outro.
‘Don’t you ever sleep?’ she yelled when he turned to face her.
The Doctor’s arms stopped flailing.
‘Sorry?’ He looked blankly at her. ‘You’ll have to speak up!’
Clara ran across the room and tugged the guitar cable from the amp. It didn’t make any noticeable difference, though; the original multi-tracked stereo recording was still blasting from the TARDIS speakers.
‘I stole this guitar from Jimi Hendrix himself,’ the Doctor shouted amid the sonic onslaught. ‘Would you believe he was actually going to set fire to it?’
Clara grabbed his shoulder and pressed her face against the side of his head.
‘Turn it down!’ she screamed.
With a petulant expression on his face, the Doctor pressed a button on the console and the music faded quickly to background level.
‘Sorry,’ he said, as though nothing untoward had happened. ‘It’s a rubbish PA anyway – it only goes up to eleven. You were saying—?’
‘You’re a pain in the arse!’ Clara snapped, assuming the tone of voice she used when dealing with wayward pupils. ‘In fact, you’re impossible to live with!’
I’m impossible?’ he retorted, snatching off his shades and glaring at her, his fierce eyebrows bristling. ‘Is that a fax from Miss Pot for the attention of Mr Kettle, Impossible Girl?’
Despite herself, Clara laughed. She could never stay angry with him for long.
‘Look at this.’
She pulled out her smartphone, scrolled through the display, and handed it to her oldest, wisest, and undoubtedly most annoying friend.
‘Yes, I know – touchscreen technology. You humans never fail to amaze me.’
Not the touchscreen,’ she said patiently. ‘Read what‘s on the screen.’
He scrolled down for a few moments and turned slightly pale. Handing the phone back to her without a word, he started swiftly programming a fresh set of co-ordinates into the TARDIS navigational system.
‘“The Statues are Moving”,’ she said. ‘Does that mean the Weeping Angels?’
‘I don’t know. I sincerely hope not,’ the Doctor replied in a low voice. ‘I‘ve met them before, and I’ve been lucky to get away from them every time. My friends weren’t so fortunate …’
‘We’d better go and investigate, though, right?‘ Clara suggested.
At that moment the engine noise died away. The Doctor turned to face her.
‘We’re already on the case!’ He swung round and an unexpected grin split his face. ‘Croeso i Gymru, as the friendly natives say.’
He crossed the room and flung open the main door with a dramatic flourish.
The TARDIS had landed in an almost empty car park. The sky was pitch dark and overcast; a light drizzle was falling, glowing in the sodium street-lamp glare.
‘Every time I come to the South Wales Valleys, it’s raining,’ the Doctor said, stepping out onto the gravel surface. ‘I sometimes wonder if it ever actually stops.’
‘What? You’ve been here before?’
‘Yes. Maybe – I don’t know for sure. This valley, the next one, the one over there …’ He pointed vaguely east. ‘They all look the same after a while. All full of huge chapels and surrounded by coal heaps.’
Clara joined him, and he locked the door behind them.
‘What does it say on your phone? Where exactly are the statues moving?’
‘The Bush Inn and Sports Bar.’ Clara slipped her phone back into her bag and followed the Doctor as he strode towards the road. ‘It’s just around the corner.’
They walked quickly past the bus station, ignoring a group of youngsters sheltering inside. They were kicking a football idly, smoking, and shouting abuse at each other.
‘Some of yours, I take it?’
‘No, I think teenagers are pretty much alike wherever you go.’
The Doctor chuckled. ‘I certainly wasn’t. All that angst-ridden rebellion stuff came much later.’
They passed a row of small shops and turned left into the main street of the town. Halfway along, on the left, a group of people were standing outside a large pub, chatting, laughing and smoking. A white hire van was parked in front of the building. Fast, driving, powerful rock music became clearly audible as they approached.
‘Are you sure this is the right place?’
He stopped in his tracks; she checked her phone and nodded.
‘Yeah, the Bush Inn. That’s it.’ She pointed to the recently repainted name in relief on the upper storey.
Something stuck on the window caught Clara’s eye, and she walked over to read it. Suppressing a smile, she turned back and beckoned him over. He read the notice and laughed loudly.
‘“Clay Statues” live, Friday, thirteenth of November.’ Clara chuckled. ‘They’re not aliens – they‘re a band.’
‘“The Statues are Moving”, indeed!’ The Doctor frowned at her. ‘You do realise we could have had UNIT and Torchwood on Code Red – just because of a viral marketing campaign! That would have been a very unlucky Friday the thirteenth.’
Clara shrugged. ‘It got us interested, so I supposed it worked. Anyway, you’re always saying you don’t get to go to gigs these days.’
‘Last time I was here I ended up at a gig in a pub,’ he replied with a wink. *
‘When was that?’
‘Ages ago. A lifetime ago. No – two lifetimes ago, come to think of it.’
He smiled and peered through the window.
It was a long, narrow building with a bar along one wall. The band were already playing, and a substantial crowd had piled in to watch and listen. She turned to him with a sly smile.
‘Well, we might as well have a drink while we’re here,’ she suggested. ‘I’ll get the first round.’
The crowd of smokers made way for Clara and the Doctor followed close behind, putting his shades back on as he stepped through the door.
The place was packed with people of all ages, and the music was even louder inside. The band were set up in the corner near the main window. There were only two of them: a stocky guy stood up front, barking into the microphone and strangling a bass guitar. He had longish dark hair and had made a vague attempt at a beard. Behind him, a sandy-haired chap with glasses and a mature beard pounded a large drum kit.
The Doctor surveyed the crowd with relief. There was no sign of alien technology whatsoever. He slipped his shades into his pocket and chuckled at the strange circumstances that had somehow brought him back to Aberdare on another wet autumn weekend.
Clara pushed her way through the crowd and squeezed in at the bar. The Doctor leaned against a pillar, a studiedly neutral expression on his long narrow face, afraid to let on that he was actually enjoying the music. A couple of minutes later Clara nudged him and pushed a pint of creamy lager into his outstretched hand.
‘Well, this makes a nice change from flying around the universe all night,’ she shouted into his ear. He grinned.
‘Aye, you’re right. In fact, it could be just what the Doctor ordered.’
They stood together by the pillar, enjoying their drinks and listening to the extraordinary music the two lads somehow managed to make. It was an unusual combination; but it worked.
The duo stopped for a break, and the Doctor gave them a friendly nod as they made their way to the bar.
‘They probably think you’re a talent scout,’ Clara said, and he smiled.
‘That was my excuse last time, too.’ Then he turned to face her, beaming with delight. ‘Or else I’m the eccentric old hippy who brings his daughter to gigs with him.’
‘You said it – not me!’ Clara smirked.
They chatted for a while with some of the other punters, and decided to stay for the second half. The Doctor bought another round, and watched in amusement as the unusual band started setting up again.
They were approaching the end of their set when the Doctor turned his attention back to his companion. He leaned close to her and bellowed into her ear, ‘Do they think they’d be even better with a lead guitarist? I can think of someone who’s pretty decent …’
Clara tried not to laugh.
‘I think you’re probably a bit too old,’ she said, suppressing a grin.
‘Rubbish – I’m in better shape than Keith Richards, and he should have died forty years ago …’ His voice tailed off. ‘Hang on a minute – you don’t think …’
He and Clara exchanged wary glances.
‘No – surely not. You mean …?’
‘The Rolling Stones might actually be shape-shifting aliens!’ A look of horror spread across the Doctor’s face. ‘We’d better check that out ASAP!’
Without another word he drained his pint and barged his way urgently through the crowd, with Clara following in his slipstream.


* See ‘Pit Stop

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