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Small Victories

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Sometimes Captain Janeway liked to think of her Ready Room as the eye of a hurricane. Her calm spot amidst the chaos of everyday life on a starship so far away from home. Over the years, she had taken the time to personalize the space, make it more warm and welcoming especially whenever someone needed to come and talk to her.

But the most important part of the room was definitely the replicator: her coffee source, her lifeline. Sometimes the only thing that kept her sane. At the moment, Voyager was traveling through a surprisingly peaceful part of space, but that didn’t make her daily coffee fix unnecessary.

“Come on, old friend,” she tried to coax the replicator, “I know you can do this.” The machine was obviously on the fritz because her last attempt to get coffee resulted in a goopy lukewarm mess resembling some of the horrors Neelix used to concoct during the early days of their journey.

She tried again but the replicator still didn’t materialize anything close to her usual order of “coffee, black.” So instead she pushed up her sleeves with determination and opened the panel to get a look inside at the complex array of circuitry. Firstly, she set the tricorder to scan for tachyon particles or any other temporal anomalies, mostly out of habit than anything else. She had had her fair share of time paradoxes after all. But the readings came back negative, so that was one cause she could rule out. Her next course of action was to look warily around the room just to make sure Q wasn’t hiding anywhere, laughing about her coffee-less predicament. Because that would definitely be something he would do if he got bored and had some free time.

But there was no sign of their occasional tricky visitor, so she concluded that the problem was merely a standard run-of-the-mill malfunction. Something that should be easily fixable.

After fiddling with the mess of circuitry for entirely too long, she realized she wasn’t making much progress. Her first instinct was to call B’Elanna to check it out. But she knew the chief engineer was currently busy with maintenance on the warp core. As much as Kathryn loved her coffee, she wasn’t about to pull her best engineer away from important work like that. Instead, she tried to think about what B’Elanna would do in the situation, narrowing her eyes as she inspected the replicator again.

She could imagine the engineer now: scrutinizing the circuitry, analyzing the problem, brainstorming different solutions, until she ultimately got frustrated enough to curse under her breath at the poor unfortunate replicator with a mix of Klingon and English. Kathryn chuckled quietly at the image, thinking about the few Klingon insults she herself had picked up over the years from B’Elanna. But B’Elanna’s anger issues aside, she had proved time and again that she knew what she was doing.

Kathryn fiddled with the circuits but some sparks sent her back a few steps. She watched a few tiny tendrils of smoke rise up into the air. This seemed like the perfect time to reassess the situation and come at it from another angle.

Both Harry and Tom would probably be able to help figure out what the problem was. The two of them made a great team when they worked together, always bouncing ideas off each other to solve problems in unconventional ways. She was glad that they had developed such a good friendship over the years. Back at the beginning of Voyager’s journey, those two had been in desperate need of a friendship. Tom being the loner with his checkered past, Harry being the new recruit with lots of inexperience. Being so far from home meant that friendships were the only things they could rely on.

Kathryn tried a different tactic on the replicator while imagining that Tom and Harry would be discussing Captain Proton or something along those lines as they fixed it. The image made her smile. Feeling more confident than before, she took the chance to try the replicator again.

The result was still an unspeakable mess of goop only vaguely resembling coffee.

The smiled slipped off her face as she sighed. “What’s wrong with you today?” she asked the replicator. “Angry at me about something? Perhaps we should both discuss this like adults.”

If Seven could hear her right now, she would probably tell her that talking to the replicator was an inefficient way to solve the problem. And Seven would be right, of course. She still had a very clinical way of looking at the world even as she continued to adjust to being away from the Borg. The road to regaining Seven’s humanity wasn’t easy, but Kathryn didn’t regret any of it. It had just been the right thing to do. And Seven’s unique perspective added so much to the crew.

So Kathryn took a step back and sat down at her desk again, scrutinizing the replicator from a different angle. Perhaps a change in perspective was what she needed. Of course, if Seven were here, she’d probably suggest injecting it with nanoprobes, which was not exactly the perspective Kathryn was looking for.

Her next idea was just to stare down the replicator like she was stuck in a hard negotiation. Like perhaps with a particularly stubborn Kazon or a frustrating Malon freighter controller. Maybe if she glared long enough, the replicator would just fix itself. She liked to think that her glare was a little bit intimidating at least. It practically worked on everyone—give or take a Q…

A laugh escaped her throat and she wondered if this was a side-effect of caffeine withdrawal. Seven would have called her method inefficient, but Tuvok would probably say it was downright illogical. But Tuvok’s willingness to call her out on such things was what she had always valued from his friendship through the years. His presence was always very calming and he always told her exactly what she needed to hear. If she had to be stuck traveling across the galaxy with anyone, she was glad it was him and his quiet logical demeanor.

So she looked at the replicator again and tried to come to a more logical solution. “Let’s be reasonable,” she said out loud as she thought about alternatives to her coffee problem. There was the simple option of just going to visit Neelix to get coffee from the Mess Hall. It would be a short term solution though, since that wouldn’t fix her replicator here and Neelix would probably want to chat. Kathryn did enjoy sitting down with the Talaxian and getting caught up with all the interesting news floating around the ship, but if she was busy, she didn’t have the time. Still, she made a mental note to go visit Neelix later anyway just to say hello. He may call himself the ship’s “morale officer” but even he needed some encouragement occasionally.

It was time to get her hands dirty again. Thinking about strategies was a good first step but meaningless if she didn’t put any of it into action. “Alright, let’s see what we can do,” she said to herself as she reconfigured her tricorder to try another method. Nothing caught on fire this time as she rummaged around the exposed circuits, so she considered that progress.

And it was progress because the coffee that materialized this time looked a bit more like actual coffee and not swamp sludge. But it still didn’t look completely safe to drink. She was, however, getting desperate for her caffeine fix. It smelled like coffee as she lifted the cup near her lips, but she decided not to drink it. A few sips would most likely send her straight to Sick Bay for a visit to the Doctor. She would much rather see the Doctor under better circumstances. It was amazing really how much the Doctor had changed over the years, how his program had expanded and adapted to function under all sorts of situations. He worked constantly to take care of the crew, knowing how precious each life was, but also found time to develop himself personally.

She set aside her latest replicated coffee failure. She’d much rather see the Doctor to discuss his collection of holo-photos or love of opera than because of an upset stomach.

So once more, she was back digging around through the replicator’s circuits to pinpoint the source of the problem. At this point, she thought she’d be more successful asking Chakotay to guide the replicator on a vision quest or something. She just couldn’t seem to find the problem. If Chakotay could see her right now, he’d probably say something like “have you tried giving it a good kick?” with his familiar wry smile.

“I’d never kick you,” she reassured the replicator just for good measure, but the idea did make her laugh. Chakotay was always a good counterbalance for her. He was a born leader and he wasn’t afraid to disagree if he thought a different course of action was better for the crew. She couldn’t ask for a better first officer, and she knew if anything happened to her that Voyager would be in capable hands.

If she was being honest with herself, she still struggled with a lot of guilt over getting Voyager stranded on this side of the galaxy, even if she knew it had been the right decision to make. But Chakotay’s presence helped lessen that burden.

And just then, something inside the machine clicked into place and the replicator made a weird beeping sound she’d never heard before. She narrowed her eyes suspiciously and scanned it again. She still hadn’t quite figured out what the malfunction was but it seemed to have just fixed itself.

“Coffee, black,” she commanded. The sound of the replicator’s familiar whir filled the room and finally, finally, she had a decent cup of coffee ready and waiting for her. “Thank you,” she smiled.

Captain Janeway, you’re needed on the Bridge,” a voice called out through the comm system right as she was reaching for the cup.

She laughed at the timing and then shook away the sentimental feelings that had crept up on her. There would be time for that again later when she wasn’t working. It was time to dive back into the hurricane of chaos and face whatever it was head on.

Well, she supposed, that’s why coffee mugs came with handles. She turned to carry the cup with her as she headed towards the door.

Somehow, the coffee seemed to taste just a little bit better than before. There was something to be said for small victories.