Still, as he took in his surroundings, he supposed that it could be worse. The fact that his mask still registered traces of whatever Lucius had been using on it at least ensured that the shield he'd included in the mask had prevented anyone from taking it off, and he still had enough weapons hidden in his cloak if he needed to break out, but that still left him with the problem of working out how to deal with the Lucius situation...
He might be a veritable genius when it came to dealing with ways of fighting the Wraith, but as his recent experience with Ford had forced him to recognise, he also suffered from the notable handicap that his area of expertise wasn't that useful when dealing with a threat that he couldn't just pummel, shoot, stab, or otherwise defeat using physical methods; he hadn't been able to do anything for Ford's mutating physiology, and even if he could identify whatever Lucius was using to trigger this bizarre cult-esque reaction in everyone around him, he had little hope that he could figure out a cure before anyone did something that would get them killed or that they'd regret when it wore off-
God, he shouldn't have allowed his thoughts to go there; all he could suddenly think of was the image of Elizabeth fawning sickeningly over Lucius, the arrogant git content to treat her as another conquest, with no understanding of just how incredible or precious she was beyond her ability to satisfy his pathetic physical desires...
He'd witnessed Wraith feeding, felt like his insides were trying to tear themselves apart when he'd accidentally overdosed on Wraith enzyme in a crisis and had to make himself go 'cold turkey' to get back to normal, seen bodies of the dead and dying in places where the Wraith had carried out more direct raids rather than simply abducting people to feed on them, but the thought of Elizabeth... doing it... with that bastard accomplished something that John had long thought he'd managed to completely overcome; the urge to throw up in horror and disgust at the scenario facing him.
"Are you comfortable in there?" Lucius's voice asked, John looking up to see the other man walking into the room with a nonchalant smile as though he had every right to be treating Atlantis like it was his, not even bothering with guards when facing a prisoner of John's reputation (John quickly halted that train of thought; he was not going to start assuming people should fear him without seeing him in action, and in any case Lucius's apparent under-estimation of John- or his own overconfidence in whatever he was using; either could account for what he was doing right now- would work in his favour at the moment).
"Fine, thanks," John replied, glaring back at Lucius as the other man casually stood in front of the cell. "So, now that we're alone, care to share what's really going on here?"
"Can't we just talk?" Lucius asked, smiling at him with a smile that gave the impression of a man who was unaware of just how bad he was at dealing with people. "I mean, OK, it's terrible that Elizabeth had to do this, but here we are, two legends-"
"You're not a legend; you're just a potentially legendary git," John interrupted; he refused to be compared to this prat in any way. "And if you're hoping to win me over with whatever you're using now that we're alone, I designed my mask to cope with far more toxic and dangerous substances than something this fundamentally passive; we could be face-to-face for decades, doing nothing but talking, and you'd die of old age before my mask's systems were low enough on power to let that stuff affect me."
"Oh," Lucius said, sighing slightly mournfully as he looked at John. "Too bad; having you to help them would really make this easier..."
"Make what easier?" John asked, glaring at his adversary in exasperation, ignoring the slight tinge of fear he felt at Lucius's words; the idea that this self-centred git had a plan made his actions all the more a cause for concern. "What are you actually trying to do here?"
"Well..." Lucius said, looking contemplatively at him for a few moments before he shrugged. "You know what, I'm a good sport, and you've done a lot for us over the years; you can know my secret."
"I'm honoured," John said dryly. "So, what is it?"
"It's a herb, originally," Lucius explained with a proud grin. "One of my greatest discoveries... well, it's my only great discovery, but you've got to admit, it's pretty great."
"What were you before it?" John asked, refusing to voice his thoughts on the herb; as far as he was concerned, the stuff was clearly an abomination that should have been destroyed before it could ever be used in this manner.
"I was a baker," Lucius replied with a shrug. "Bread, mostly; the occasional muffin at festival time..."
"So this herb changed all that, right?" John asked, already piecing things together.
"Yeah," Lucius confirmed, chuckling as he pulled up a chair and sat down. "I baked it into my own bread after I found it during one of my travels- I like to experiment with my ingredients- and I noticed that people started to like me... well, hate me less, but pretty soon it became like. So I perfected a potion. It worked great for years..."
"'Worked'?" John repeated, raising an eyebrow as he looked at Lucius, grateful that the man was the chatty kind of bad guy; clearly his ego translated into wanting to tell others about his 'success' if they were mentally capable of understanding how it worked even if they wouldn't agree with his motives. "What changed?"
"The Wraith set up an outpost on the only planet where I could get the herb," Lucius replied, his expression slightly grimmer than before as he continued his tale. "I knew I could never go back there."
"Which is why you were interested in what we had to offer, right?" John asked, nodding thoughtfully as the full details of Lucius's plan slotted into place in his mind. "A trained city full of soldiers and scientists, with access to technology beyond anything you've encountered before... more than capable of getting to that planet and bringing the herb back, right?"
"I'm telling you, it's fate," Lucius said with a smile. "And everybody wanted to help, so I let them. See, that's the great thing about this herb. Nobody gets hurt. They just want to help me all the time. What's wrong with that? I'm a nice guy; I never make them do anything they didn't wanna do."
"Don't you have six wives?" John asked, recalling something he'd heard one of the soldiers mention while he was being taken to the cell.
"Sometimes all at once," Lucius said, still smiling at the memory.
Only the fact that he'd already lost his control where this man was concerned once too often already stopped John from voicing his reaction to that; he had nothing against what people got up to sexually in their private lives so long as they kept it private, but the idea of Lucius using his 'powers' like that... basically abusing the herb's power to commit what essentially amounted to date rape and thinking that it was acceptable...
Then he remembered the manner in which Lucius had reacted to Elizabeth's presence, and John knew that his control was about to snap; the thought of this man treating Elizabeth- Doctor Elizabeth Weir, the woman who'd given up her life and any future she might have had to save this city- as though she was just another conquest had been bad enough, but the idea that he could feel proud about essentially raping someone...
The fact that he was willing to turn Atlantis into his personal slaves just to pander to his own ego would have been enough to earn John's enmity; the fact that he was basically talking about adding Elizabeth to his personal harem just made it all the more personal.
"The second that this force field comes down, Lucius Lavin, you are going to regret everything that you have done in this city," John said coldly.
"Oh, really?" Lucius asked, smiling nonchalantly at him.
"Really," John replied, staring grimly at Lucius. "I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt by assuming that you're just a bit of a git rather than an absolute bastard and give you one last chance; let me out of this cell, leave this city, stop using that herb anywhere in this galaxy or any other, and I won't show you why I'm the thing that gives the Wraith nightmares."
"Why should I do that?" Lucius replied, still smiling at the caged Phantom. "You can't get out, and like I said, I'm not hurting anyone; they're not doing anything they wouldn't want to do-"
"Their judgement is seriously impaired by your influence, you fat bastard; they'd never go this far for something so goddamn useless as that herb if they were thinking clearly," John interrupted; this man practically spewed crap from both of his major bodily orifices, but that didn't mean he had to listen to it. "You want to send them into hostile territory-"
"I've just got them going to a planet which has a few things that might be useful; the fact that the Wraith are there is unfortunate-" Lucius began.
"The only thing that planet has is a single herb that you're dependent on to have any kind of social life because you're such a complete git that you'd never even get anyone to give you the time of day without it," John interjected once again, glaring resolutely at the other man. "You're a goddamn bastard, Lucius; you were pathetic before you found that herb, and now you're a pathetic junkie who depends on that stuff just to get by in contemporary society because you know that you'd never get anyone to like you on your own merits."
"Seriously, what are you even going to do to me?" Lucius asked, chuckling slightly as he looked at him. "I mean, OK, maybe you're immune to the herb, but you're locked up in that cell-"
Fed up with listening to this man ranting about himself, John decided to bring out his secret 'shock weapon'; reaching up to his face, John casually removed his mask, holding it in his left hand as he stared firmly back at the former baker's sudden expression of terror at the sight of what was under the silver metal.
"OH MY GOD!" Lucius said, his eyes wide with terror as he looked at the face that had driven John to done the mask in the first place. "Y-you-you-you're-!"
"I am," John said, glaring back at the other man, for once grateful for the bad reputation his true face had given him.
It sucked when you wanted to socialise with others, of course- they were so busy acting on instinct to get away from what they thought he was that they never realised the anomalies in his behaviour that would contradict that theory-, but there were times when looking like this had its advantages...
"You know what I am and what those like me are capable of if riled up," he continued, his gaze still fixed on Lucius with the same cold intensity that had made even a few Wraith back down when they found themselves facing it, slipping the mask back into place as he walked up to the cage wall to fix his adversary with the full intensity of his stare; the face was good for shock value, but if he was making conversation it was better to keep the mask on so that he could ensure that people were looking at his eyes rather than the rest of his face. "Either you let me out now, or things are going to get really unpleasant..."
For a moment, John just stared at Lucius, the other man looking at him with a wide-eyed expression of terror as his gaze remained fixed on the mask, clearly remembering what he'd only briefly witnessed underneath it, until he seemed to collect himself, his expression going from fear to self-satisfaction as something apparently occurred to him.
"You can't do anything to me!" he said, laughing with the kind of exaggerated laugh that was always used when the subject was trying to convince themselves that they had been foolish more than they were trying to convince others. "You're locked away in that cell for good, and these people are better off with you staying in there before you go and do what your kind always does; I'm going to make sure Doctor Weir knows-"
Lucius didn't even get the chance to finish his sentence before the cage suddenly deactivated, followed by the door opening as John charged out of the cage with such speed that Lucius was lying on the ground with John's legs on either side of his waist and his arms pinned by John's hands before he'd even had time to register that John had moved in the first place.
"That's the thing about my reputation," John said, smirking slightly at Lucius as though they were merely continuing an earlier conversation despite Lucius's obvious terror at their current positions. "People see the face or the gun or the sword or other relevant weapon and they assume that all I am is a thug who goes around hitting or shooting people a lot, and those who see my face really underestimate what I can do; it never occurs to them that, for example, I could have the intelligence to take precautions against the possibility that someone would lock me away in my city and try to use it against me."
"B-b-but-!" Lucius began.
"Oh, I know that my 'kind' are normally just driven by instinct no matter what everyone tries to teach them," John said, staring mockingly at the man below him- there were times when the false impression his face gave could be useful, even if he generally resented the reaction it provoked-, quickly patting over Lucius's clothes for a few moments before he pulled out a small glass phial, "but consider this; there must be something different about me compared to the others if I survived this long, right?"
He smiled as he waved the phial in front of Lucius's face. "This is that potion you mentioned, I presume?"
Lucius's panicked eyes widened momentarily at the sight of the phial, giving John all the time he needed, prompting him to stand back up and haul Lucius to his feet before throwing the other man into the cage, slamming a hand on the nearby control panel to shut it before he turned around to face the man as the cell walls sprang up.
"What-?" Lucius began, his eyes widening as John tapped at the cell controls. "What are you doing?"
"Keeping you on lockdown for the next day or so until I can render that herb of yours useless," John replied with a smile as he stepped back from the cell door. "The cell has its own air filtration system- one completely independent of the rest of the air in Atlantis; let's just say the Ancients designed this as a quarantine area as well as a jail cell-, so you'll be totally dependent on what everyone else has soaked up so far if you want to influence anybody, and I've just activated a little security program which keeps the lock on a rapidly-rotating combination control code that will only let you out when twenty-four hours have passed; could have left it for longer, but no matter how much of a jerk you've been, starving you to death is... well, it's not something I'm interested in doing."
"WHAT?" Lucius screamed, slamming his hands against the cell before he stepped back from the force field, his hands burned by the energy field. "But- but I'll-"
"Don't even think about claiming you'd starve anyway, you useless lard; you've probably grown used to eating to excess, but you've got enough extra weight around there that your body'll cope without food for a few hours, and you could stand to lose a few pounds anyway," John countered, glaring at the man on the other side of the barrier with a cold intensity that felt like John was preparing to bore a hole in the other man's head if he stared with any greater intensity. "This is Elizabeth Weir's city, Lucius Larvin; she has given more of herself to save Atlantis than even she knows, and I will never allow you to turn her into your fucking puppet because you can't accept the fact that you're a useless piece of shit who will never amount to anything or accomplish anything useful in his sad, pathetic excuse of a life."
"I just want-!" Lucius began.
"You want nothing more than an opportunity to prove to yourself that you're something more than a useless load that nobody will ever give a crap about as himself, and I'm in no mood to even think of humouring you after what you've done," John countered, staring at Lucius for a moment before he sighed and stepped back. "However, right now, my priority is getting my weapons back and getting everyone else in this city back to normal; you'll be fine in there until I'm finished."
"Y-you can't do that!" Lucius protested. "I'll starve... you're the Phantom; you don't hurt humans-!"
"Firstly, as I already said, you won't starve, and secondly, you attempted to seduce the woman I love; do you really think I give a dead Wraith's useless kidneys about your physical comfort?" John spat (He cursed himself for revealing such an intimate detail to this git, but quickly pulled himself together; he hadn't exactly confirmed that it was Elizabeth he was referring to, and Lucius had certainly been flirting with enough of Atlantis's female population that it would be hard to identify who he was specifically talking about).
As satisfying as it would have been to threaten this bastard, he didn't really have time for this; Lucius wasn't going to leave of his own accord, and, regardless of how tempted he was to give in to his urges, John wasn't going to start mutilating someone for being a git.
"Enjoy your time in Atlantis," John said, smirking at Lucius as he stepped back from the cell. "I'll see you once I'm done."
"You can't-!" Lucius protested.
"I just did," John replied, sweeping his cloak around himself in an excessively dramatic flourish before he headed for the corner and vanished into the shadows, leaving Lucius to stare after him in shock at what he had just witnessed.
He'd worry about how everyone would react to this turn of events later; right now, he just had to hope that whatever Lucius had done wouldn't take too long to wear off to a degree that would make others willing to listen to him.
If he had kept track of the expedition's schedules accurately, Doctor Beckett should be in his lab carrying out a few searches of the Ancient database on his own; that meant that all he had to do was get there in the next few minutes and keep him on lockdown...
As he sat in one of the maintenance tunnels just outside of Doctor Beckett's lab an hour or so later, patiently waiting for the right moment to act, John was already wondering if this was the smartest move.
Getting Beckett on his own wasn't actually that difficult- with everyone fawning over Lucius, there hadn't been any missions that might require his attention if they came back suddenly, and Beckett was known for working on his own in the lab if he was particularly caught up in some experiment or another-, but the question was whether Beckett would even believe his 'story'; he'd had to come up with a basic story that didn't 'incriminate' Lucius that Beckett would hopefully listen to rather than focus on protesting Lucius's innocence, but if the doctor still wouldn't believe him...
Then, as he saw the last doctor leave the room, John seized his chance; exiting the maintenance tunnel, he slammed his hand against the nearest door control panel before Beckett could react to his presence, his decade-plus of experience learning how to control Atlantis's more subtle technology allowing him to put the entire lab on a lockdown that nobody else could hope to unlock without his permission.
"What- Phantom?" Beckett said, looking at John with a sudden panic. "What are-?"
"Doctor Beckett," John said, looking at the Scottish doctor with a slight edge of desperation that he hoped would reinforce the impression he was trying to create, "I'm sorry to bother you, but... I need your help."
"My help?" Beckett said, looking at John with new uncertainty. "With what?"
"I'm... I'm not feeling too well, Doctor," John said, taking the phial out of his pocket and showing it to Beckett. "I've been exposed to... well, I've been exposed to something and I've managed to collect a sample of it; I wondered if you could help me isolate it?"
"You... you think this is the reason for how you reacted earlier?" Beckett asked, looking at John with a slight smile.
"Well, that's... possible," John said, shrugging slightly as he tried not to smile too visibly; by creating the idea that he thought there was something wrong with his recent actions, he'd make Beckett more willing to help him. "I've got some ideas about what it will do, but I'd appreciate a more experienced opinion..."
"Of course," Beckett said, smiling reassuringly as he pulled up a nearby computer and scanner and began to analyse the phial's contents, staring contemplatively at the screen as further information was displayed before them. "Fascinating..."
"In what way?" John asked, trying to sound as eager as the others; judging by the way others reacted to Lucius's presence, the more eager he appeared right now the better.
"It looks like this phial contains a chemical that interacts with the human body to trigger pheromone secretion," Beckett explained, thoughtfully studying the read-outs on the screen in front of him. "According to this, it triggers the release in the prefrontal cortex, stimulating positive emotions relating to a particular person..."
"OK, so we've got what it does; is there any way to stop it?" John asked, hoping that Beckett's drug-addled mind wouldn't register the anomaly of the scenario described; how would a drug like this have provoked John to attack Lucius in the first place?
"Well, I might be able to develop a means of suppressing this reaction in injection format-" Beckett began.
"Is there any way we could add it to the city's air circulation?" John asked on impulse. "I mean, if it can affect me without my knowing it, maybe it could affect other people; shouldn't we get this spread out as soon as possible before anyone else can fall victim to it?"
"Well, possibly..." Beckett said, looking thoughtfully at him. "But shouldn't we let Lucius know that you didn't mean to attack him-?"
"We don't have time to ask his permission, and I'm sure he'll understand; just get the cure added to the system, Doctor Beckett," John said, staring firmly at the Scottish doctor while trying to restrain the urge to argue with him about his attitude towards Lucius; given the effect that the herb could have on him, he'd probably start protesting against John's suggestions if he started to imply anything that could be interpreted as acting against Lucius. "Please."
After a momentary silence, Beckett nodded.
"Well..." he said, shrugging slightly as he looked at the masked man with a smile. "You've done enough for us over the years... if this gets you back to normal, I suppose you're entitled to a break."
As the Scottish doctor started to work on the cure- from what John could see of the other man's work over his shoulder, it looked like the cure was relatively straightforward; all he needed was the right combination of drugs to regain control of the brain's pheromone secretion centres so that they could regain their control-, John mentally planned out his next move.
With the lab on lockdown and no way for sound to get through the emergency force field he'd erected around the door, there should be no way for anyone to interrupt Beckett's work; once they'd added the cure to the base's atmospheric sensors, it should only be a matter of time before the rest of the population were cured of their 'obsession' with Lucius. After the cure was added to the air system, he could leave the lab through the emergency tunnels and stay in hiding until the cure had taken effect; after that...
John didn't know; after what Elizabeth had said to him, the implications of doubt in him because he wouldn't show his face...
After he'd spent so long believing that she believed in him, just the idea that she had that kind of doubt in him on some level (The drug might people react positively to Lucius, but it couldn't create negative feelings against others)...
He needed some time to himself to think about that issue; as much as he wasn't comfortable thinking about her possible reaction, maybe it was time to think about showing her his face...
AN 2: As with the original episode, I'll be jumping to the aftermath of this event in the next chapter rather than actually showing Lucius's departure, as well as exploring how the events of "Sateda" go in Atlantis now that Sumner's the one in charge rather than John...