It could've been a very quiet day in the woods. It really could've. The birds were flying V-style for a warmer climate. The squirrels were gathering up supplies for the upcoming winter. Leaves were gently floating down from their respective branches and gathering in small piles on the ground. A gentle wind tossed them around playfully. It honestly could've been idyllic.
Unfortunately, all this peace and quiet was interrupted by the sudden arrival of a rickety old red wagon being steered by a six-year-old boy, who was busily waxing philosophical with his best friend, who just happened to be a tiger that could walk on his hind legs and provide commentary on their day.
"You have to wonder, Hobbes," the boy said, "why humanity considers itself such a huge deal! They pollute, they smoke, they blow stuff up, they argue all the time, and they're constantly trying to be somewhere on time. They think they're so big and important, and they think they're ready for anything, and then Mother Nature comes along and smacks them hard in the jaw to remind them where they stand."
"Tree!" Hobbes suddenly said, pointing frantically ahead at a tall oak that loomed in the ever-decreasing distance.
Calvin casually twisted the handle to the left and successfully managed to avoid the tree without losing control or his point.
"Why can't we ever learn? Natural disasters are at an all-time high! You'd think we'd have been able to learn something from all this, and yet, all we think about is whether or not we're going to escape our national debts or win some war that we've forgotten the plot to. Why can't we ever stop and take in our surroundings and just enjoy what we have?"
"Cliff!" Hobbes shouted, pointing ahead once again.
Calvin sighed and turned the handle again, running along the side of the cliff side that overlooked a deep valley. "You know, I really don't know why I try to discuss these things with you. I mean, here I am, baring my soul, trying to prove to you that I'm not totally self-involved, and you're pointing out obstacles!"
"Well, you know me," Hobbes replied calmly, covering his eyes. "I like to keep you up to date in the latest developments."
They continued on for a few more seconds before Hobbes peeked between his fingers, and then he suddenly pointed again. "Boulder!" he shouted.
Calvin rolled his eyes with much agitation as he twisted the handle again and aimed them back into the deeper parts of the woods.
They were just going down a slope and bucketing into a gully when they caught sight of something over the ledge. Curious, Calvin turned the handle at the next clearing and headed in that direction.
"Where're we going now?" Hobbes demanded, hanging on tightly to the wagon's edges at the sharp turn.
"I think I saw someone over there," Calvin replied.
"So? Why should we bother them?"
"Because they're close by and probably need some help. Why else would they be in these woods?"
"Because they haven't read the town newsletter recently?"
"Remember that article about you last week? There was a story about how a certain little boy and his wagon terrorized a community center picnic."
"Oh that… Well, I maintain my stance of being a victim of misinformation. I thought they had already been there the previous day."
"We rode the wagon on that day as well."
Calvin glared at his friend sharply before driving the wagon up a slope, where it slowed to a stop, allowing him to glance over his shoulder and take a look at who he had passed. But whoever it was, they had vanished.
"Where'd he go?" he asked.
Hobbes looked around, but he couldn't see anyone else. "Are you sure you saw someone?"
"Well, maybe we should let him go. What if he's dangerous?"
"Then you could eat him, couldn't you?"
"Er… I'm not so sure about that…"
"Well, you never know. He might be ill. Suppose he's got a head cold? I'm not up for catching it, thank you."
"Oh for pity's sake, you're supposed to be a homicidal psycho jungle cat! What do you care if he's sick or not?"
"We share a bed. Have you ever shared a bed with a sick tiger?"
"Yes, actually, and Mom blamed me for the stain on the rug."
"Oh, yeah," Hobbes said, recalling fondly. "She made you clean it yourself, if I recall."
Calvin glared again, something he did a lot of during their conversations now that he thought about it, and got out of the wagon to look around a bit more thoroughly.
Hobbes, realizing that he could finally get out of the screaming metal deathtrap known as a wagon for a bit, got out as well and stretched a bit before looking around. "Did you get a decent look at him?"
"Sort of, but that's not going to do us much good. Knowing he's got brown hair isn't going to help if there's no one around to distinguish him from."
"True… Where'd you see him? We could track him."
Calvin looked excited by this prospect. "Oooh, good idea! He was back over this way!"
He grabbed the wagon by the handle and ran ahead, looking around eagerly until he found the spot on the ledge.
"He was somewhere around here," he said, looking around.
Hobbes came to the spot and sniffed the air, using his keen senses of smell and hearing to aid him. "I'm not sure, but I think someone's definitely been here," he said. "There's another weird smell in the air too. Not sure what it is."
"What's it smell like?"
"I don't know, but it's making my tail go all bushy," he said, gesturing to his tail, which was becoming thicker as it's fur began to stand up.
"Wow, this is exciting," said Calvin, rubbing his hands together. "To think, here we are, trailing some stranger in our own backyard! Do you think he has a gun?"
Hobbes stared at him. "Do you want him to?"
"Why not? That'd be really cool!"
"Well, I hate to disappoint, but I don't carry weapons," a new voice said.
Calvin and Hobbes both jumped on the spot and spun around to see the stranger smiling down at them. He was hanging from a tree branch with one arm, and the other was tucked into his pocket. They took a moment to take in his floppy hair, tweed jacket and blue bowtie.
The stranger seemed undeterred by their silence and kept on. "In fact, I very much disapprove of weapons of any sort," he said, leaping down from the tree and walking pleasantly around them. "I'd go so far as to say I'm very anti-weapon. I try to make sure people don't use them, especially against each other. I much prefer screwdrivers."
"…Huh?" Calvin finally managed, getting over his shock.
The stranger spun around and grinned again. "How'd you do? I'm the Doctor."
Hobbes drew himself to his full height and looked in confusion. "Doctor?"
"Hello!" the Doctor said, waving.
But now Calvin was a bit concerned. "Doctor? Why are you here? Did my mom send you? I had my physical two months ago! I'm not sick! I swear! You're not here to give me a shot, are you? Keep away!" he cried, getting up against a tree.
The Doctor looked a bit concerned himself, and he held his hands up in a peaceful gesture. "No, no, no, I'm not that sort of doctor," he said assuringly.
Calvin still didn't seem to trust him. "Then what kind are you, a dentist?"
"Certainly not! Never been fond of dentists. They never use the right amount of Novocain…"
"Then what kind are you?"
"Oh, you know. This and that."
Hobbes looked confused. "You're a Doctor of This and That?" he asked.
The Doctor smiled. "Yes, I suppose I am. I rather like that. I might put that on a business card. Not a bad idea. Who are you?"
"Hobbes. I live with him," he said, gesturing to Calvin, who was slowly starting to approach them again.
"And he is…?" the Doctor asked, prompting the boy.
"Calvin," he replied, still suspicious. "And don't you forget it!"
"Doesn't seem likely…"
"What are you doing out here?" Hobbes asked. "We don't see a lot of people out in these woods. Of course, then again, we're usually whizzing through here at sixty miles per hour."
"Sissy," Calvin snorted.
"Yes, I saw you go by," the Doctor said, eyeing the wagon curiously. "That's quite a ride you've got there."
"Thanks," Calvin said, pulling the wagon forward. "This thing is virtually indestructible. We've been over more cliffs than a lemming."
"We've had a better survival rate than most lemmings, though," Hobbes said.
"Yes, I have a similar driving style," the Doctor grinned. "I keep telling my friends, if it's not creaking and groaning and you don't scream at least once, you're probably not doing it right."
Calvin grinned. "You drive your car like that?"
"Oh, I don't drive a car. Heavens, no. I drive my ship like that."
"You have a boat?" Hobbes asked.
"No, my spaceship."
Calvin's eyes widened. "You have a spaceship?" he asked excitedly.
"Oh, yes, my dear ship. She's called the TARDIS. I'd be lost without her, I tell you."
"And that's why you're wandering around in the woods, isn't it? You're lost because you've lost your ship."
The Doctor looked impressed. "Indeed. You're rather quick for your age, aren't you?"
"Try asking him a math question. You'll be astounded, but for a different reason."
"Oh, shut up, fuzz ball. What's your ship look like? We could help you find it!"
"Well, it's not so much missing. More like, it took off on it's own and left me here."
Hobbes frowned. "How did it do that?" he asked.
"Well, I came here to investigate a problem, you see. Somewhere in these woods, there was a device that needed neutralizing. It was left here by one of my enemies, but fortunately I was able to get here in time to switch it off. See? Look at it…"
The Doctor reached into his inner coat pocket and pulled out a strange metallic device that had wires coming off of it and flashing red lights.
"Wow! What is it?" Calvin asked, completed awed.
"Well, to put a long story short, it's a sort of big-explosion-causing device with the ability to wipe out an entire city in a huge fireball."
Hobbes began backing away from the Doctor cautiously.
"No, don't worry," the Doctor laughed. "It's perfectly safe. I neutralized it with the sonic screwdriver. All wrapped up in seconds, or at least I thought it was. In switching it off, I inadvertently set off a trap that caused the TARDIS to dematerialize, effectively trapping me here."
"Dematerialize?" Calvin repeated. "You mean it just vanishes into the thin air?"
"Hmmm, so we couldn't just chase after it into outer space then, could we?"
"No, we couldn't. I'm afraid it's temporarily removed itself from time and space. Usually if the TARDIS and I wind up in different time zones, she can find her way back to me eventually, but I've been lost in these woods for several hours now and I'm guessing something's keeping her from finding her way."
"Some sort of time distortion emanating from this thing," the Doctor explained, holding up the device again. "I found out that by keeping it from exploding, it released a time field that is keeping the TARDIS from rematerializing. And the only way to switch off the time field would be to switch the device back on, and that would mean we'd all get blown up."
Calvin whistled. "You're in a tight spot, alright."
"Yes, I'm rather afraid I am."
"There must be some way out of this," Hobbes said, thinking hard. "Can't we leave the device here and walk away from it? We could walk out of the time field and your ship could find you that way."
The Doctor shook his head. "I can't risk leaving the device behind for someone else to find," he replied, putting it back in his pocket. "Suppose while I'm gone someone else comes along and presses a button?"
"Bye-bye, neighborhood," Calvin said with a nod.
They thought for a little while longer while longer, listening to distant wildlife as they did.
Then Calvin mentally replayed their conversation in their head and realized something. "This TARDIS…," he said at last. "You said it removed itself from time and space."
"Yep," the Doctor replied, still thinking and staring at the ground as he did so.
"…Your ship is a time machine! Of course! It's all in the name! T-A-R-D-I-S: Time And Relative Dimensions in Space! Right?"
The Doctor's eyes widened as he turned around to stare at the child. No one had ever guessed the TARDIS's full name like that before. "Er, actually it's Time And Relative Dimension In Space," he corrected feebly.
"What's the difference?" Hobbes asked with a frown.
"None, really, but you'd be amazed at what people argue about."
But Calvin was still excited. "Your ship can travel through time and space! Hobbes, isn't that amazing?"
Hobbes shrugged. "Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt, didn't like it," he replied.
"You've…traveled in time before?" the Doctor asked.
"Not a favorable experience, I can tell you," Hobbes snorted.
"Oh, you big baby, that particular dinosaur wasn't even a carnivore!" Calvin said with much agitation, indicating they'd had this argument before.
"Oh yeah? Then why'd you run?"
"Because I didn't know that at the time!"
"Whoa, whoa, hold on!" the Doctor interrupted. "You've actually traveled in time?"
"Yeah!" Calvin said, eager to show off. "I've got my own Time Machine!"
"Really! If your TARDIS thing has dematerialized, then it's probably in the space time vortex, trying to land, and if it's homing in on you, then it's hanging around this particular section of time, so it should be easy to find!"
"Er, yes, actually, it should be."
"Then let's go get my Time Machine! I'll bet we can find it easily!"
"Yeah, you guys can do that," Hobbes said, backing away. "I'm sitting this one out."
"Oh, come on, you big baby! Don't you want to see the Doctor's time machine?"
Hobbes looked indecisive for a moment before he finally weighed up all his options and sighed. "Fine…," he said at last. "Let's go."
"Right! All aboard!" Calvin said, climbing back into the wagon. "Come on, Doctor! Climb in!"
The Doctor stared at the wagon as both Calvin and Hobbes climbed in. It was rather small, and they both took up a lot of room already. The odds of him actually being able to squeeze in there with them were at least a thousand to one.
He smiled. Impossible odds. His favorite.
"Right then, scooch over. Give us some room," he said, moving towards the rear.
Everyone had to move around a bit, but eventually, they found a decent seating arrangement. The Doctor just barely fit in the wagon suitably and found he had to bend his legs and wedge his boots in rather tight against the front. Calvin and Hobbes were in his lap, with the steering rod clenched in Calvin's hands.
"Okay, you're going to have to give us a push, and then gravity will do the rest," Calvin said.
"Right, here we go," the Doctor said, concentrating on the ground.
Thankfully, they were positioned on an incline, so they could get up some speed. The Doctor pushed against the dirt a couple times before they were finally over the edge, and they were soon plummeting down the steep hill.
Holding on tight around Hobbes' waist, he gave out his favorite cry – "Geronimo!"
Calvin's mother was working in her garden at the moment. She was working hard to enjoy these plants. She hoped her terror of a son wouldn't destroy these for a while. They were rather nice. The tulips were coming in nicely. She had made sure they were getting enough sun. She was presently planting some more daisies, humming to herself in quiet revere of her work.
Unfortunately, she found herself growing wary at the sound of a child's voice.
Namely, her child's voice.
She could hear Calvin talking to someone coming up the hill that connected to their backyard. The wagon's infernal squeaking let her know that Calvin had just come out of another harrowing ride in the woods. She was waiting for the day when she'd have to rush him to the hospital for a fractured skull because he'd taken a wrong turn and flown off one of the cliffs.
Calvin, of course, never told her that he'd been over those cliffs many times already. No need to worry her more than necessary, after all.
She casually glanced up briefly, catching sight of Calvin coming up the hill with his stuffed tiger in one hand and the handle of the wagon in the other. Assured that he was alive, she resumed her gardening, not noticing the Doctor come out of the woods as well.
"You didn't get too messy, did you, Calvin?" she called out, not looking up.
"Of course I didn't!" Calvin said, giving her his attention. "I'm perfectly fine, thank you!"
"Alright, well, it's going to be suppertime in half an hour, so go and clean up, just in case."
"Aww, Mom, I don't need to clean up! I'm fine!"
"Alright, alright, don't burst a blood vessel! I'll clean up! Jeez! Come on, Hobbes. Come on, Doctor. I'll show you the Time Machine."
The Doctor nodded, still curious as to how a six-year-old boy could have acquired a Time Machine without a degree in temporal engineering or even a job.
"Who're you talking to now, Calvin?" his mother sighed.
"I'm talking to the Doctor. Hobbes and me are going to use our Time Machine to find his time machine. It left without him and he's stuck here."
"Mm-hmm, that's nice, dear. You do that."
"Come on, guys. It's upstairs."
The three headed for Calvin's backdoor, but just as he was about to pass through it, the Doctor looked back at Calvin's mother and called out to her. "Those daisies look really, lovely, madam! Wise choice!"
And he followed Calvin inside just as she looked up. She stared at the closing door in confusion before looking back at her plants, and then shrugged, resuming her work once again.
They stopped in the kitchen for a moment. The Doctor hadn't had anything to eat in several hours and was rather hungry, so they fixed themselves a couple of sandwiches. Calvin and the Doctor had cheese and turkey, while Hobbes had a tuna fish sandwich.
"Your mother knows about your time machine?" the Doctor asked between bites.
"Oh yeah, sure," Calvin replied. "Why?"
"Just seems an interesting premise for a six-year-old boy to have a time machine."
Calvin shrugged as he finished his sandwich. "She seems okay with it. She only really gets made when I break stuff."
"Which is often," Hobbes put in, finishing his own sandwich.
The Doctor smiled. He found their banter endearing. "So, if we could get on with it then?"
"Sure. Come on. It's in my bedroom."
Calvin led the Doctor up the stairs and showed him to his room. It was as it usually was: a huge mess. Toys and comic books lay strewn around in a hectic display of disarray.
"Where is it?" the Doctor asked, looking for any sort of technology that might be out of the ordinary for this time period.
"It's in the closet. I'll be right back," Calvin said, stepping over a few things before pulling the closet door open and climbing inside, digging around.
While they waited, Hobbes decided to make idle conversation. "So, what does your time machine look like?" he asked.
"Oh, it's blue," replied the Doctor. "And square. And it's bigger on the inside."
"I see… His is brown and square and actually pretty darn cramped."
"I heard that!" Calvin shouted from within.
"What's it made out of?" Hobbes continued.
"Found it!" Calvin shouted.
Moments later, he was hauling out a rather large cardboard box. The Doctor stared at it incredulously. The only thing that gave any indication that it was a time machine was the fact that the words 'time machine' were crudely written in black marker on one of the sides.
And Calvin was leaning against it proudly like it was a new car. "What do you think?" he asked eagerly. "I made it myself!"
The Doctor stared. "It's…er…," he said, choosing his words slowly, not wanting to upset his new friend, "…small."
"Yep! Easy to maneuver. I considered that."
"Did it always look like a cardboard box?"
"I know what you're thinking," Calvin said with a grin. "It's genius in its simplicity, isn't it?"
The Doctor didn't look too sure. "Is it safe?" he asked.
"Of course it's safe! We've time-traveled loads of times and never had a problem! Right, Hobbes?"
Hobbes thought for a moment, remembering their past adventures. "Well… I'll concede that we never had a problem with the time machine itself… The death-defying bits usually come from the locations we land in."
"I see… Does it have shielding?"
"Well, sure! The time vortex would disintegrate us instantly without it! The Time Machine projects a special force field that protects us!"
"Okay… Do we have to close the flaps over our heads?"
"Nope. We ride with the top down every time," Hobbes said.
"But…doesn't the time vortex hurt your eyes? The raw energy would blind you."
"Not if we wear these!" Calvin said, pulling out two pairs of swimming goggles from his pocket.
"What are those?"
"Vortex goggles! They help you contend with the vortex and light speeds."
"Well, we can't dematerialize like your fancy ship, so we just go as fast as we can until we make it into hyperspace."
The Doctor considered this. The boy clearly understood the basic physics, but he wasn't certain that a cardboard box was going to get him his ship back.
But then he decided he didn't have anything to lose, so he held out a hand, into which Calvin placed a pair of goggles.
"Come on, guys! Let's get going! Everybody in!"
Thankfully, the box was big enough for all three of them. Calvin got at the helm where the controls were, while Hobbes and the Doctor sat in the back.
"Ooh – surprisingly cozy back here," he said.
"Okay, everyone ready?" Calvin asked. "I'll press the button that'll take us into the vortex. Your time machine should be close to this point in time, so we'll be able to see it pretty quickly."
The Doctor looked over Calvin's shoulder to see where the button was, and he saw that there were in fact several buttons, and they were all drawn on in black marker. He internally hoped for a miracle.
"Goggles on? Then let's go!"
And wouldn't you know it, the box began to slowly rise into the air, somehow blowing papers around the room.
Needless to say, the Doctor felt a bit reassured.
"Okay, everyone ready! We're in an enclosed space, so we'll have to break light speed instantaneously."
"So there's going to be a violent jerk, is what he's saying. Brace yourself," Hobbes supplied.
"Ready? Here we go!"
And then there was a sudden flash, and the whole bedroom vanished, replaced with a swirling blue vortex that flashed lightning at them.
"Blimey!" the Doctor breathed, looking around them with great interest. "Isn't it fascinating what they're doing with corrugated cardboard these days?" he asked, clutching the edges of the box.
"Isn't it though?" Hobbes agreed, clutching his stomach.
"Okay, hang on!" Calvin yelled. "I just need to redirect the temporal coordinates and make us stay in the vortex instead of travel through time. Hang on… Got it! Now what did you say it looked like again?"
"Wooden blue box!" the Doctor yelled back.
"Okay… You said it homes in on you, right?"
"Yes! So it should be close by!"
"Then I need to make the Time Machine redirect its energies to a hovering position using the artron energy as a gravitational differentiator!"
Hobbes stared at him cluelessly. "Huh?"
"I need to weigh anchor!"
Calvin pressed some of the black buttons on his side of the Time Machine, and suddenly, they jerked again, just as suddenly, but this time they were in one place, not going anywhere, watching the vortex go swirling under them like the most ferocious river they'd ever seen.
"Okay, got that done," he said.
Hobbes looked around. "We've stopped," he noted inanely.
"Exactly. The internal clock reads at the time we left at. That should mean…," Calvin trailed off, looking behind them.
Hobbes and the Doctor both looked back, and they heard a strange groaning noise coming up over a hilly section of the Time Vortex. And then they could see it. There, spinning towards them, was a wooden blue police box.
The Doctor broke into a relieved grin. "Oh, there you are, you beauty!" he crowed. "Hang on, let me just unlock the doors."
And he held up his fingers and – snap!
The doors swung inwards, revealing the interior.
Calvin and Hobbes stared in wonder. "Wow…," Calvin breathed. "I wonder how much money Mom and Dad will lend me to retrofit this thing…"
Then Hobbes noticed something deeper into the TARDIS. "Who're those two people looking at us?" he asked.
"They're Amy and Rory!" the Doctor replied. "Did I not mention I travel with them?"
"Oh, by the way, I travel with Amy and Rory!"
The woman, presumably Amy, came running towards the open doors, hanging onto one of the handrails on the stairs to keep from flying out of the ship. "Doctor?" she called out. "Is that you?"
"Amy!" the Doctor shouted cheerfully, waving. "I need you two to lower the shields on the TARDIS! There should be a yellow switch! Once you pull down on that, I want you both to hold onto something!"
Amy gave a faint nod, and then she redirected her attention to the man holding onto the console. "Rory!"
"Yellow switch! I heard!" Rory shouted back. "Hang on, Doctor!"
They watched as he moved around the console in the middle of the room, and then he presumably pulled it, because the ship rocked a little bit, shaking its occupants around. They both grasped onto whatever was close at hand.
"All right, everyone!" the Doctor shouted. "Here we go! Calvin, release the artron energy to give us some wellie!"
"Right!" Calvin shouted back, not sure what a pair of rubber boots could do to help the situation but pressing the appropriate button anyway.
With a sudden lurch, as if it were being catapulted, the Time Machine was somehow tossed through the TARDIS doors and flew into the control room, landing on its side and causing Calvin, Hobbes and the Doctor to spill all over the floor.
The Doctor quickly snapped his fingers again, and the doors slammed shut.
It was quiet for about six seconds. The only sounds anyone could hear were the sounds of the TARDIS' groaning engines.
It was Rory who broke the silence. "Everything okay then?"
"Yes! Everything's perfect! Well done, everyone," the Doctor said enthusiastically, leaping to his feet in a flash.
Amy didn't say anything. She just ran from the handrail she'd been gripping frantically, and she hugged him tightly. He responded briefly before managing to shake the hand of Rory, who came down from the console.
"Who're they?" Amy finally asked, noticing Calvin and Hobbes over his shoulder.
"Oh, yes! Sorry! Amy and Rory, these are Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin and Hobbes, these are Amy and Rory!"
Calvin waved halfheartedly before finally taking note of where he was. "Wow! This place is incredible! Look at all this stuff! Now this is a proper time machine!"
Hobbes went into a series of stretches before finally standing up properly and taking in his new surroundings. "Not bad," he said. "Definitely bigger on the inside. This is what a time machine should have: elbow room!"
"Oh, stop whining! There's nothing wrong with the Time Machine!"
"Huh! If you're not using that thing to cheat at your homework, you're almost getting us eaten by dinosaurs!"
"Oh, it's always the dinosaurs with you. What about that time we went to medieval times?"
"And that dragon nearly devoured us? Yeah, I remember that."
"Hey, that wizard had it out for us! How was I supposed to know that he'd sic his pet on us?"
While they were arguing, the Doctor, Amy and Rory were watching them with a mixture amusement and concern.
"Who are they again?" Amy whispered. "Where'd you find them?"
"In the woods. They were riding in their wagon. They gave me a lift."
"Do they have a time machine?" Rory asked.
"Of course they do."
"Where is it?"
"On the floor, over there."
"What, the box?" Amy asked, incredulous.
"But…it's cardboard! They've got a time machine made of cardboard."
"Mine's made of wood."
"Are they from Earth?" Rory asked.
"Of course they are! Why wouldn't they be?"
"Well, I don't want to alarm you, but that cat is four feet tall and walking on his hind legs."
"How long has Earth had talking cats?"
"I dunno. I've seen stranger things…"
Calvin and Hobbes were wandering around a bit now, and they were just now finding the underside of the console.
"Wow! You've even got a swing on here!" Calvin cheered. "Come on, Hobbes! Give me a push!"
Their argument forgotten for the time being, Calvin leapt into the swing and grasped the sides, and Hobbes came up behind and began to push him.
The Doctor smiled warmly and set to the controls. "Come on," he said. "Let's take them home."
"What century are they from?" Amy asked.
"Not sure… Let's see… It was either late twentieth or early twenty-first…"
"How's it work, though? How does a six-year-old have a time machine made from cardboard?"
The Doctor just shrugged, never taking his eyes off the console. "I dunno."
"How does a cardboard time machine even work?" Rory added.
Amy stared at him. "Okay, what do you know about this whole adventure?" she demanded.
The Doctor just smiled. "I don't know," he said emphatically. "So a six-year-old boy made a time machine out of a cardboard box and can travel in it with his talking tiger. It's hardly my place to question him."
Amy and Rory looked at each other, neither sure how to reply to that statement, before they finally just shrugged and let it go at that, listening to Calvin's cries of amusement from beneath them.
A strange otherworldly groaning sound reverberated across Calvin's backyard, and slowly but surely, the TARDIS burgeoned its way back into existence. Once it had fully materialized, the door opened, and the Doctor stepped out, followed by Calvin and Hobbes, and then Amy and Rory, the latter of whom was carrying the cardboard box.
"Right then!" the Doctor said triumphantly. "The device has been disposed of properly, so there'll be no more of that."
"Did you find out who made the device in the first place?" Rory asked.
"Yes, it was a Graske."
"What's a Graske?" Calvin asked.
"Small brown alien. Don't take sweets from it. Now then, here's your time machine back. Thanks again for all your help, Calvin, and you, Hobbes."
"Sure thing," Hobbes said, shaking his hand.
"Hey, can you take us with you?" Calvin asked eagerly.
The Doctor winced internally. He'd had a feeling this question was coming up. It was in Calvin's nature. That childlike desire to explore the universe and have madcap adventures was something they both had in common. Two madmen and their boxes.
"Eh, best not to," he said at last. "It's too dangerous for someone as young as you."
Calvin's face fell. "Aw, come on! We won't get in the way! This box does other things too! It can duplicate and transmogrify and…and…," he trailed off at the look in the Doctor's eyes.
It was a look he didn't see in the eyes of adults very often. It was a look of sadness and sympathy.
"…Okay," he said at last, stuffing his hands in his pockets and glaring at the ground.
The Doctor smiled and knelt down, making the despondent boy look him directly in the eye.
"Calvin, don't let being stuck in one time get you down. Sure, it takes longer this way, but one day, you're going to do great things. It's brilliant kids like you who grow up to save the world, and one day, you'll be one of those humans who will show the others that it's important to enjoy what they have."
Calvin looked into the Doctor's eyes for a few moments before he spoke.
"You were listening in on us, weren't you?"
The Doctor chuckled. "Well, you were shouting to be heard over that wagon. It's difficult to ignore you."
"Tell me about it," Hobbes said knowingly.
"Shut up, fuzz ball."
The Doctor chuckled before looking at Hobbes. "Look after each other," he said.
Hobbes grinned wryly. "Don't worry, I will," he said with a playful glint in his eye.
Calvin looked at him warily. "That's not an invitation to play 'Hunters and Carnivores' again," he said warningly.
The Doctor laughed. "Ah, you two will do fine together. Come along, Mr. and Mrs. Pond," he said fondly.
Amy and Rory waved goodbye, and they vanished into the TARDIS. The Doctor patted Calvin on the head before he too went inside, shutting the door behind him.
And then with a wheeze and a roar, the TARDIS began to take off. Calvin's hair was blown back, as was Hobbes' fur. They watched in amazement as the blue police box vanished from view.
"Wow… I really need to update this thing," Calvin said, gently kicking the Time Machine lying on the ground.
"Well, we got that done," Hobbes said, dusting his paws. "How about we grab the wagon and run for it?"
"Because he landed the TARDIS on your mom's flowerbed."
Calvin looked at the crushed freshly planted tulips and daisies with worry before grabbing the discarded wagon from earlier. "Geronimo?"
Hobbes nodded. "Geronimo."
And they rode off back into the woods just as Calvin's mother came out of the house and saw her flowers.