Captain Jean-Luc Picard, of the Federation starship Enterprise, was sitting in his ready room, analysing the reports provided by the away team he had deployed on Earth during the whole mission: the reports provided by Commanders Riker and Troi and by the Chief Engineer, Lieutenant Commander La Forge, were quite detailed and insightful, offering an interesting human aspect to the whole event, considered legendary in the 24th century.

The description offered by his officers, particularly Counselor Troi, regarding Zefram Cochrane had been the most interesting component of the entire thing, showing first and foremost a man, not the legend Cochrane would become for future generations. The creation of the first warp-capable engine, the Phoenix, had made possible the first contact with an alien race, the Vulcans, who were exploring the Solar System on the exact day that Cochrane would inaugurate the warp drive. Their long-range sensors detected the warp signature encouraging them to investigate.

A chime interrupted his musing, and he gave admittance to Lieutenant Commander Worf, Chief of Strategic Operations Officer aboard Deep Space 9 and later Tactical and Security Officer under his command. «Commander Worf,» he greeted him with a smile, while gesturing to the imposing Klingon to take a seat. «I presume I can’t persuade you to remain aboard the Enterprise-E for another tour of duty, can I?»

Both men knew perfectly well that, right now, the Klingon was needed by Captain Sisko aboard Deep Space 9, especially considering the increasing danger given by the Dominion, the Changelings and the increasingly frequent skirmishes between the Federation and the Dominion itself: the Enterprise, now returned to the 24th century, was en route to bring back Worf and the survivors of the Defiant to DS9.

«Perhaps another time, Captain,» answered Worf, to which Picard smiled at «Perhaps another time, then, Mr. Worf. What can I do for you?»

A little uncomfortable, Worf went ahead and answered: «I have read the reports offered by some members of the senior staff and I was asking myself if, after all that happened, it is… wise… to keep celebrating the First Contact Day

«And why is that, Commander?»

«Well,» explained the Klingon, «after all, Mr. Cochrane was only a man. With his up and down, like many different people I encountered since I was welcomed by the Rozhenko. He isn’t the hero I’ve been told at the Academy and since then.»

«Based on your argument, Mr. Worf, all the textbooks about the history of space exploration should be rewritten,» replied wryly Picard, who in the meanwhile stood up and walked to the replicator, asking a «Tea, Earl Grey, hot,» before returning to his seat.

«Sir?» Worf asked, perplexed. After taking a sip of the hot beverage, Picard explained: «History, Mr. Worf, is full of myths, legends, heroes. Whether one wishes it or not. I can offer you many examples, not only in Earth history, but also in Klingon’s, Andorian’s, Trill’s, Bajoran, and so on. Do you remember the report filed from Captain Sisko after the death of Li Nalas, leader of one of Bajor’s many Resistance cells during the Cardassian Occupation of Bajor?»

After a nod from Worf, Picard continued: «On that report, Commander Sisko wrote that “Li Nalas was the hero of the Bajoran Resistance. He performed extraordinary acts of courage for his people and died for their freedom” and only a bunch of people, among which Chief O’Brien, knew the truth behind the official record.» He took another sip of his tea before continuing: «His reputation was born from what could be considered as being in the right place, at the right time: after an ambush from the Cardassians in the mountains surrounding the Sahving Valley, only Li and two other Bajoran escaped alive. They made their way to a ridge overlooking a small lake, with Li the only one with a phaser, that led him to scout ahead for the enemy. About halfway down the embankment, he stumbled and landed on his back just as a tall Cardassian emerged from the water, a Gul in the Cardassian military, and both of them remained stunned for what seemed an eternity. Then, before the Cardassian could grab his weapon, Li fired his phaser and killed him, with his body that collapsed onto the Bajoran, who was found moments later by his two comrades, one of them identified the Gul as Zarale, who was responsible for the massacre of half a dozen Bajoran villages. Before Li could explain anything, its two companions began spreading their story of how Li killed the gul. Efforts by Li to deny his companions' story failed, as he became a legend in the resistance and victories were attributed to his leadership. His exploits spread and grew to mythic proportions.»

Worf remained silent while Picard was talking about one of the Bajoran most important heroes: «But he wasn’t a true hero, because he did nothing to incarnate such an ideal. Years later, a few weeks before being killed for saving Sisko’s life, he was freed from a prison camp and appointed to the role of Bajoran liaison to DS9, with Major Kira sent to Bajor. He was acting strangely in Sisko’s opinion, not as the known hero all the Bajoran people thought he was, uncomfortable with the role. A day or two before being killed by Colonel Day and saving Sisko’s life, he explained his strange behavior to Sisko, explaining where it all started.»

A silence stretched between them, while Picard finished his tea. Then, he said: «See, Commander, as I said before: history is written by the winners and is full of myths, heroes, legends, but also full of villains and enemies. Most of the time, it is the interpretation given later that provides this aura of heroism and legend or villainy to the various parties in the picture, but there are times during which the legend starts while its main characters are still alive. Zefran Cochrane was, perhaps, not a hero in its own time, but he became so during the centuries: without him, after all, we wouldn’t be here.»

The two men talked for a little while, before both left the ready room: the Klingon went to cover its temporary post on the bridge, the tactical and security station, while Picard went to sit on the center seat vacated by its Executive Officer, Commander Riker.

A few days later, the U.S.S. Enterprise finally docked at Deep Space 9, and the crew of both the flagship and the Defiant boarded the Federation-Bajoran station, the first in a well-earned leave and the second to return to their families and post.

Chief O’Brien, who had served aboard the Galaxy-class starship bearing the name of Enterprise-D well before its destruction on Veridian III, was eager to see some of its old comrades and Commanding Officer, as well as Lt. Cmdr. Worf and all the crewmembers who had survived the fight against the seemingly invincible Borg cube on Sector 001.

The U.S.S. Defiant was well underway for its repairs, thanks to the effort of the Chief of Operations of Deep Space 9 and his engineering teams, refusing the help of Lt. Cmdr. La Forge, Chief Engineer of the Enterprise: after all they went through, all of them deserved a little vacation. After all, everyone needed a much-well-earned rest, even if they were heroes.

Captain Benjamin Sisko, Commanding Officer of Deep Space 9, welcomed the counterpart from the Enterprise with a very different attitude from that held four years earlier, when Picard had left him to the station: Sisko had learned a few things not only about the weight of command, but also about Jean-Luc Picard himself. And he had learned to respect the Captain of the Federation flagship, who hadn’t surely simple years during his career as Starfleet Captain, especially considering his extensive experience not only with the Borg, but also with the all-powerful entity Q, who had bothered him more than once during the last decade.

About ten days later, from Starfleet Command came a new set of orders for Captain Picard and his crew, and the Enterprise-E finally returned to space duty: Commander Worf and Chief O’Brien were given the possibility to say goodbye to their old comrades and to Captain Picard. With the ever-increasing threat offered by the Dominion forces, one of the most advanced vessels on the fleet was going to patrol some routes that were particularly susceptible to Jem'Hadar attacks.

On the bridge of the Enterprise all was ready to go when Captain Picard, Commander Riker and Lieutenant Commander Data entered the bridge. Commander Troi vacated the central seat and took her station to the left of the command seat, while the three officers took their posts. The imposing Sovereign-class starship was at once cleared from the upper pylon in which it was docked under the management of the new Conn Officer, an unjoined Trill named Ensign Kell Perim.

«Ensign Perim,» intoned Captain Picard, «take us out. Warp 6.»
«Aye, sir. Warp 6,» was the crisp answer of the Trill.
And the Enterprise darted brightly toward its new mission.