Disclaimer: Follow the bouncing ball back to Paramount. . .
(Inspired by a Voyager conversation with John...and a discussion of a cliff hanger involving. . .
Kathryn Janeway sat up in bed and stretched, her hands in fists as they reached toward her ceiling. She pulled back the cover, swinging her pajama clad legs off the bed, her bare feet making contact with Starfleet issue carpet. Standing, Kathryn stretched again.
Wiggling her toes once, Kathryn rolled her shoulders and went to her closet. The same morning ritual over and over, for the past five years.
She opened her closet, going to pull out a fresh uniform. Kathryn looked, and was handed a steaming cup of coffee from a man with a donkey. He tipped his hat and smiled. Kathryn closed the door, inhaling the deep aroma. Her eyes snapped open and she turned back toward the closet and reached out with her left hand (since the coffee mug was secured in her right hand).
Kathryn pulled open the door, finding nothing in her closet except for clothes hanging on the rack and shoes lined up on the floor. She stuck her head in and looked side to side, closed the door and opened it again, just to make sure she was just seeing things. Kathryn shrugged, pulled out a fresh uniform. Taking her steaming coffee mug, she headed into the bathroom.
"Now, now-I don't want you fretting here...Lieutenant Barstow, I'll be right with. . .oh dear me, my leola root chili is boiling, I've got to go stir it," Neelix said, dashing about in his kitchen. His chef hat bobbled this way and that with his excitement. He zipped into the back, checking on what was on the burners, stirring this, tasting that, adding a pinch of this spice. All in all, one busy little Talaxian.
He turned around, a frying pan with Nelimora eggs in his hand, and was startled by Captain Janeway. The frying pan went flying, it's contents flying through the air. A strangled sound made it's way out of Neelix's mouth as he watched the flying food.
Two sets of eyes watched it as it flew and landed on Lieutenant Barstow's plate. He'd been turned around asking Susan Nicoletti a question. He turned to two steaming eggs.
"Thanks, Neelix!" He said, walking over to a table.
"Well, what can I do for you captain?" Neelix asked, rubbing his hands on his apron.
"I was wondering if you had any fresh coffee. I had some this morning that was absolutely perfect."
Neelix opened and shut his mouth a few times in thought. A hand reached up and was being chewed on briefly.
"Well, now that you mention it. I do have some. But not made. Commander Chakotay procured some coffee like beans at our last supply stop. We've managed to ground about half the supply, but I think I may just have some in the storage bins in the back closet." Neelix started away, when the pot of Leola Root Chili gave a sound resembling a usual after chili effect. Kathryn noted it and patted his shoulder.
"Don't worry Neelix, I can find it. I even have enough time to start you a fresh pot," Kathryn volunteered, walking back toward the kitchen storage area.
"Thank you, Captain. I appreciate---be right with you, Seven."
Kathryn shook her head as she rounded the corner to Neelix's storage area. Her hand went to the handle as a strangled noise came from Neelix. She looked, decided Neelix was all right and opened the closet. Again, a mug full of aromic, steaming hot coffee was offered and she took it. The man again tipped his hat, the corner of his mustache coming up in a quirky smile.
She shut the door, and as before, she lifted the cup up to her nose, inhaling the scent. Her eyes again opened and she reached for the door. Kathryn slowly opened it, peering inside. Nothing but canisters and bins. She shook her head and left the mess hall.
"Okay, Freddie, the isolenier jump is located in Jefferies Tube 16, junction 28-alpha. What I need is to have it rerouted to junction 32-delta," B'Elanna said, handing Bristow a Padd. She walked up the line. "You all have your assignments; let's see what we can get done." She smiled as the workers left.
"Keeping the systems running," Kathryn said, coming around the corner. Her coffee mug was much lighter, almost empty in fact.
"Captain!" B'Elanna exclaimed.
"At ease, Lieutenant. I thought I would come down and see how things were running." Kathryn said, pointing around the engineering area.
"Smooth as can be, captain. We're doing some re-routing and maintenance. If the calculations are right, this should improve efficiency by as much as 43%."
Kathryn pursed her lips together and nodded. "I like the sound of that, B'Elanna. Keep up the good work." She went to take a drink of coffee and made a face. B'Elanna looked at her, concerned.
"Captain, is something the matter?"
"I hate cold coffee."
"I have some in my office. Feel free to fill your mug," B'Elanna said, jumping as the sound of falling tools clattered on the level above them. "Excuse me, captain, but Vorik has been nothing but butter fingers the last couple of days." She ran off for the lift, leaving an astonished Janeway to look after her.
Kathryn smiled, shaking her head. She headed toward the Engineering office, wanting to get a refill on her coffee. On her way, she noticed that one of the access doors was open. Kathryn opened it up to make sure no one was in there, planning to shut the door afterwards and continue.
Upon opening the door, a sun browned hand offered her another steaming mug of coffee. He smiled, then patted the donkey on the nose. Kathryn took a nice sip, letting the liquid wash over her tongue and down her throat, relishing the feel of it running down to her stomach, warming her up. She opened her eyes.
'Not again,' she thought. Her hand reached for the door and again, she opened it. She peered inside, looking from one end to the other. No where, did she see the man nor the donkey. Kathryn shook her head and continued on.
Kathryn sat in her ready room, having visited all the important areas of the ship on her earlier tour. She sighed, looking over the latest report from Tuvok. Her coffee cup was almost empty, and her eyes were beginning to close.
"Damn, I need coffee and I'm out of rations," Kathryn said to the empty air. Then an idea struck her. Kathryn shook her head at the illogic of the situation. But she looked at the door to her bathroom and then casting her eyes down to the empty coffee mug. "What the hell," she muttered.
With empty coffee cup in hand, Kathryn approached the door to her bathroom, shaking her head and glad no one could see her and the ridiculous situation she was going into. She stopped just short of the sensor mechanism. The mug was tightly gripped in her left hand. She took a deep breath and moved her hand to activate the door.
As before, a sun tanned man and his donkey were behind the door, fresh brewed cup of coffee in hand. Kathryn reached out and took, committing as much of the man to her memory as humanly possible. He again tipped his hat and the donkey jerked its head about. The door shut and she took a drink.
Kathryn then moved to the door, allowing it to slide open. She looked inside. Nothing but the sink, commode and sonic shower. Absolutely nothing but the normal things found inside a bathroom. Kathryn raised an eyebrow and went back to her desk.
"Come in," Kathryn replied, drinking the last swallow of coffee. Chakotay stepped into the ready room, bearing a padd in his hand.
"Report from Stellar Cartography. Jenny apologizes for it being late, but she had an allergic reaction to the Mirosian Hair pudding."
Kathryn held out her hand, shaking her head. "Where does Neelix come up with these things?" she asked him, looking at the contents.
Chakotay took a deep breath and was about to answer when Kathryn shook her head. "No, I really don't want you to answer that one." Chakotay smiled and made as if to leave.
"Chakotay, wait a minute please," Kathryn said, standing and looking down into the empty coffee mug. "Has anyone-oh, how should I put this-seen a strange man on board--," Chakotay made as to interrupt her but she held out her hand. "-with a donkey?"
Chakotay bit his lip in an effort not to laugh, but finally ended up putting his hand to his lips to stop the sound. He couldn't stop laughing.
"Whatever the doctor has you on, up the dosage!" He laughed.
"Chakotay! I'm not kidding. Every time I've wanted coffee today, I open a door and there is a man standing there with a hat and a donkey. He hands me the cup, tips his hat and the door shuts. When I open it, there is nothing there even indicating the man was even there. Just what's supposed to be behind the door is there."
Chakotay looked at Kathryn skeptically. "Kathryn, here's what I think. First, if there was a man on board with a donkey, don't you think someone other then you would have seen this person by now? And secondly, don't you think that maybe, just maybe you are drinking too much of that stuff?"
"If you are suggesting that I'm losing my mind, then you're wrong. I know what I saw," Kathryn said, getting up and coming around the end of the desk. "This isn't any coffee, Chakotay. This is the stuff that is grown in Columbia."
Chakotay looked at her face and the empty mug she held in her hand. "Kathryn, we are thousands of light years from Columbia. We have what the hydroponics bay yields, the replicator, and Neelix's concoctions."
Kathryn looked down into her coffee mug, then back to Chakotay. "Okay, let's try it. Here," she pushed the coffee cup into his hands. "It's happened in here. I want you, Mr. Doubter, to go over to my washroom, open the door."
Chakotay shook his head and took the coffee up over to the door to her washroom. He looked over his shoulder at her and waved his hand in front of the sensor. The door opened and Chakotay looked back over his shoulder again.
"Kathryn, there is nothing here," Chakotay said, stepping into the little room, turning in a circle and spreading his arms. "I think you and I should take a trip to sickbay."
Kathryn walked up to him, grabbing his arm and pulling him from her washroom and seized her cup from his hand.
"Damn it, Chakotay! I'm not hallucinating. I'm not ill," she said, the door closing behind him. "It's every time I've wanted some coffee. Like right now, I'm dying for another cup of coffee to get through those reports on my desk. I have no rations left for the week for coffee." Kathryn half turned to demonstrate her point. "I go to the door, coffee cup in hand and when the door opens-"
The door opened and Chakotay's jaw hit the floor when he saw a man with a hat, mustache and donkey, handed Kathryn a steaming cup of coffee.
Kathryn gave him look, her thumb on the opening mechanism. "See, I told you I'd been seeing a man with a donkey."
The man spoke. "I am Juan Valdez. My mission, madam, is to give the lovers of coffee the best. Sun roasted coffee beans...only the best for the believers of a good roast and brew." He tipped his hat and Kathryn released the mechanism.
Taking a sip, she looked over the rim and smiled at Chakotay. "Now, open the door and tell me I'm hallucinating." Kathryn walked back to her desk and sat down, watching Chakotay as he opened the door, then the top half his body disappeared into the room.
Backing out, he watched the door shut. He turned toward her. "Okay, I believe you. But I think you still have a serious coffee addiction. . ."
He was about to go on, when Tuvok hailed them from the bridge.
"Captain, I must report something strange. Mr. Kim wanted something called a Cadbury egg. He only mentioned it, yet the next thing that happened was unbelievable."
Kathryn sighed. "And what was that, commander?"
"Captain, when the door to the lift opened, there was a rabbit inside the lift. And what was most illogical, was that the rabbit in question was clucking like a chicken. . . "