"Bilbo?" giggled Ace.
"It was because I... well, let's just say I have interesting feet."
Herbert's office was reasonably sized for that of a university lecturer, though not what you would call academic-looking; in place of portraits of great pioneers of science and university alumni, framed posters: The Forbidden Planet, The Island of Dr Moreau, Metropolis and several of the Universal Studios 'monster' canon. The bookshelves heaved with the works of Newton, Einstein and Hawking, though the paperbacks strewn across the desk betrayed more pulpish fare: Ray Bradbury, Arthur C Clarke, Isaac Asimov. Ace was rifling through dog-eared movie magazines while The Doctor sipped long-awaited Earl Grey tea from a Planet of the Apes mug.
"The pilot, Doctor, I'm concerned, will it reach home?"
"As far as I can tell, when the ship's safety mechanism reset and the realm disappeared, the ship was released too, leaving its pilot free to navigate home. Of course, the ship is still a memory to you but it no longer sees you as a threat."
"I assure you I will dispose of my work very soon, the device and everything to do with it". Herbert refilled his mug with the last of the pot, then picked out the rogue fragments of leaf with a teaspoon. "But memories, Doctor... it will be hard, I know. There will be times when memories won't feel enough. But I cannot, like yourself live in the eternal. We must walk onward, through joy, loss, discovery... it is a good way. And we must direct out learning toward building technologies which preserve lives."
The Doctor glanced across to the framed photo on Herbert's desk – Herbert and Anne once more on their wedding day, but its 2013, he in dashing cyberpunk regalia complete with top hat and cyber parts, she a space princess, as family and friends, as assorted fantasy characters, and an officiating Jedi, look on.
They were interrupted by a commotion outside as a number of students were attempting to tip over 1929 MacKenzie-Trench design police box, which had mysteriously found itself on the college green.
"I guess this must be goodbye", said Herbert. "Doctor, Miss Ace... er, I mean, Ace."
"It was a pleasure serving under you, Herbert... I mean Sir!", smiled Ace.
Ace leapt into a hug, and this time Herbert felt no apprehensions. The Doctor gave a "farewell" and raised his hat with a wink. He propped his umbrella beneath his arm and moments later, Herbert was alone, alone but... at peace.
It was a glorious summer day, the sun just heading toward its last quarter. As The Doctor and Ace made their way between the clusters of excitable students who had taken to the green, toward the growing throng of Tardis-tippers, they couldn't help but think of the preciousness of this time; young men and women with their lives stretched out before them. The seemingly endless possibilities, the self-discovery, the romances, the adventures...
But there was adventures of their own to be had.