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"Another hero in this galaxy?" McKay said, looking sceptically at Teyla as the team prepared for their next mission. "I thought the Dark Knight here was it?"

"I'm not Batman, McKay; I'm the Phantom, remember?" John pointed out. "If nothing else, it's a more generic name that limits the risk of me being sued for copyright infringement…"

"Batman?" Ronon asked.

"Fictional character back on Earth; he lost his parents as a child and dedicated his life to make his city a place where that couldn't happen again by training for years and then adopting a costume that made him look like a giant bat so that he could scare the criminals he was hunting," John explained.

"Getting back to the current topic, why aren't you going all-out?" the scientist added, looking curiously at John, who was only wearing the standard Atlantis uniform and his simpler facial make-up. "I mean, if we're meeting the first addition to the Pegasus Avengers-"

"If I decide to form a team of any sort, I'd prefer to form an impression of this guy when he's not trying to impress 'the Phantom'," John clarified firmly. "In case you haven't noticed, the mask tends to result in people reacting to me in various extremes; there's never a middle ground."

He paused for a moment to give the others the chance to remember their own reactions before he looked back at Teyla. "Anyway, what do we know about this guy?"

"Very little," Teyla noted. "The Athosian who spoke to me of his deeds simply referred to him as a great hero of the town, a warrior who possesses almost superhuman-like powers."

"For what it's worth, we do know that this planet has a good reputation in terms of its status as a trading location; I just don't recall hearing about there being any superheroes in that area," Elizabeth put in.

"They're helped by the fact that they're a bit outside the Wraith's usual hunting territory," John noted, before he shrugged and indicated the Stargate before them. "Anyway, time to go and see if this guy lives up to the rumours, right?"

"My fellow Athosian confirms that he saw this hero in action against several armed men," Teyla noted as the Stargate activated, the warrior woman looking at John in a particularly critical manner.

"Not doubting anyone's word; just wanting to be prepared for anything," John clarified, as the Stargate made its connection. "Anyway, let's go."


Walking through the village where their mysterious 'hero' was apparently located, John allowed himself a few moments of idle speculation as he wondered how a world like this could have produced the hero they were apparently here to meet. It wasn't that the place didn't seem like a pleasant enough environment- even if the clothes reminded him of the Genii's usual 'disguise' before they revealed their true natures to anyone- but it just didn't seem like the kind of place that could create someone like the stories they'd heard about…

Still, after the rest of his team had spent so much time talking about their own personal heroes, ranging from McKay's admiration of Batman to Ronon's admiration of his original unit commander, John was relieved when one of the villagers came up to talk to them before anyone tried to ask him for details; he wasn't sure how he could answer that question honestly without revealing a couple of secrets he wasn't willing to share…

"Good day, travellers," one of the villagers said, smiling warmly at them after they had walked through some rather appealing gardens around the buildings.

"Good day to you," Teyla replied.

"This is your first visit to our village?"

"Several of my people have said that you are good and fair traders," Teyla said.

"We are," the man replied with a warm smile.

"My fellow Athosians also speak of a great hero who protects this town."

"Rumour has it he's a warrior with some impressive kills to his credit, including the Wraith," Ronon added.

"That is true," the man smiled.

"Then, uh, there's a good chance he's one of my people," Ronon added with a grin, prompting John to look at him in frustration.

"Can you take us to him?" Teyla asked, deciding to avoid that particular question.

"Of course; this way," the man said, indicating another small street. As the team followed him to the town square, John wondered what they were about to find, but when he heard the sound of someone laughing in a familiar manner, he started to harbour his doubts about this 'hero'…

"Here he is," the man said. "Our champion protector, Lucius Lavin."

The second he saw that overweight prick sitting on the edge of the table in one corner of the square, John had to remind himself that attacking the man, while satisfying to him, wouldn't do anything to endear them to the local villagers.

"Well!" Lucius said as he grinned at the four of them before his gaze focused on John. "Would you look who it is… and you are?"

"You've got to be kidding me!" Ronon said in exasperation.

"Colonel John Sheppard," John said, as Lucius looked inquiringly at him; his title might be a provisional rank at best, but he'd been given special dispensation to use it when dealing with alien worlds.

He might have to tolerate this git's presence if he was going to learn what was really going on here, but he was going to need to really concentrate to make sure that he didn't give into temptation and stab this bastard on principle…


Listening to Lucius telling his stories to the enthralled townspeople, John wondered how this bastard managed to get people to be so interested in his mountain of crap. His current story about escaping a burning building with various women and children while fending off an Iratus bug attack in the process was so outrageous it reminded John of a bad action movie, but it was mainly an opportunity to keep the man occupied while Doctor Beckett took a quick blood sample to test.

Quite frankly, John wished that they could have just resorted to the simpler option of knocking the berk out; the man's ego had apparently quickly recovered from the humiliation of the Phantom trapping him in Atlantis's cell during their last meeting, and he was as chipper as ever. Even when John pointed out a hole in his story of leading people out through a blocked entrance, Lucius simply backtracked and claimed that he had 'bravely' cleared a path through the fire while passing over how he achieved it.

If it wasn't for the fact that it wouldn't get him anything but a moment's satisfaction, John would have revealed his identity as the Phantom just to make the prick shut up…

"So," John said, as Lucius waved the villagers away with talk about the story of how he was 'almost seduced by an Ancient', "you have some very… familiar stories…"

"I admit, I took some… inspiration from some of the mission reports I perused while I was on Atlantis," Lucius said, shrugging awkwardly before he looked more curiously at John. "And I never met you while I was there…"

"Colonel Sumner decided to return to Earth a couple of months ago; I was… appointed as his replacement," John said briefly; he wasn't about to tell this man anything about his past as the Phantom even if their last encounter hadn't been particularly tense. "That said, I did read the reports about what they've dealt with before I joined them, including the one about that herb you used last time…"

"Oh, you're not gonna find any of that in my system," Lucius said with a reassuring grin. "I learned my lesson about that while I was on your city."

"So these people simply… adore you for who you are?" Teyla asked cynically.

"Exactly!" Lucius grinned. "Ain't it great?"

"I doubt it," John said, glaring sceptically at the former baker. "Your reputation doesn't exactly do you credit…"

"You worry too much," Lucius smiled. "In all modesty, these people love me, pure and true."

"Lucius, after everything I've read about you, I'd want to double-check if you told me that rain was wet," John informed the baker bluntly.

"I saved them!" Lucius protested. "I drove away this bunch of ruffians a couple of months ago, and ever since, I've been the town hero; they give me gifts, the women are throwing themselves at me… it's like the old days, except better, because now they're not drugged."

"Hang on, hang on; you beat them up?" McKay interjected sceptically.

"Yes!" Lucius said firmly. "Me! I did!"

"How'd you manage that?" Ronon asked.

"It's not so hard… when you're invincible," Lucius grinned.

"Really," John said, slipping one hand under his flak jacket as a possible explanation came to him. "Let me test that…"

Before anyone could ask what he was doing, John reached over and slapped Lucius on the back of the head, grinning as Lucius yelped in pain before looking at him in shock.

"What?" Lucius asked, staring at him in shock. "How- I've-"

"You're using one of these, right?" John said, opening his jacket just enough to reveal the Ancient shield device he always carried with him when he was going off-world; he might not wear it full-time to ensure that he could keep it charged up for when it really mattered, but whether he was acting as John Sheppard or the Phantom, something like this could always be useful. "Unfortunately for you, so am I, and as anyone with any sense or experience knows, when two of these shields come into close proximity, so long as they're still on factory settings, they basically recognise the other shield as 'self' and allow it to pass through their barrier."

"Huh," Ronon said, looking at Lucius with a thoughtful smile. "Well, at least that explains the 'hero' bit."

"How did you even turn that thing on?" McKay asked sceptically. "The last time I checked, you didn't have the Ancient gene, and Jo- the Phantom left you stuck in that cell before we could give you the gene therapy…"

"Well, I found it as one of various gifts I'd received in the past, and was able to find someone else with the gene to get them to turn it on for me…" Lucius explained, shrugging with a casual smile. "What can I say? I perused a lot of mission reports while I was visiting."

"Right," John said, looking sceptically at Lucius for a moment before he sighed and turned around, leaving the rest of his team to hurry after him as promptly as they could despite the unexpectedness of the decision.

"Are you sure this is-?" Teyla began.

"The man's clearly just playing on the tech rather than the drug to get people to like him this time around; we've got bigger things to worry about than some moron who thinks he's got a good scam going," John said firmly, taking a brief glance around to make sure that they were alone before he continued speaking. "Besides, after what that git did to you all last time we saw him, if I didn't leave now, I'd rip his balls off and make him eat them."

"Ah," McKay said, his face paling slightly as he looked at John. "Thank you for that… vivid mental image."

"You would do that to him for being annoying?" Teyla asked critically.

"I would do that to him for turning… some of the strongest people I know into pathetic sycophants hanging on his every word because he couldn't accept that he was just a pathetic git," John clarified, only just remembering to control his response; he might have an official position now, but that just made his position more precarious in some ways, particularly when it came to Elizabeth. "The fact that he's annoying while he's doing it just makes it easier; the man has nothing more to offer than his ability to be a git."

"And the fact that he has an Ancient shield device-" McKay began.

"Means nothing because I doubt he's kept everything he got as a gift on the last world if he's had to leave his old one, he's almost certainly used up most of its power by now if at least half the stories we've heard are anything to go by, and if you really want to study one I've got a couple in storage that I'd be willing to let you have a look at if you asked," John said, shaking his head as he glanced over at McKay. "Like I said, let's just get out of here before he pushes me further."

"Quite…" Teyla said, looking at John with a slightly apprehensive glance before she shrugged uncertainly. "At least we can confirm that he is not brainwashing anyone this time."

John decided to leave that whole topic alone; Lucius might not be actually using mind-altering substances now, but lying to people wasn't that much of an improvement, however he looked at it…

They were only a comparatively short distance from the town when the sound of yells and gunfire were heard from the village; even at this distance, the sound of weapons being fired was fairly distinctive. Taking a quick glance at his team, John had soon turned around and was leading them back to the village, weapons drawn in case of any trouble. A few additional gunshots were heard as they hurried towards the town, but when John noticed some people running away from the town, dressed as though they were stereotypical bad guys in an old Western, he quickly changed his mind.

"OK," he said, holding out a hand to halt his team as he indicated the departing men. "McKay, Teyla, get into the village and see what you can find out regarding what just happened; Dex, follow me and see if we can find out where those guys are going."

Nodding in agreement at the division of labour, the team quickly split into their assigned responsibilities, Teyla and McKay heading into the village while the two soldiers turned their attention to the escaping men.

John didn't know what was going on here, but something about those guys rang a bell…


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