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Author's Chapter Notes: Thanks to everyone who offered their opinions on this chapter; having weighed all possible options, I decided to get straight down to the events of “Intruder” while looking at Sumner’s attitude towards recent events in Atlantis; I figured I could cover his thoughts on the Phantom in transit as easily as I could look at them while he was on Earth

Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘Stargate Atlantis’ or any related concepts or characters; you know the drill by now. Also, the basic details of the plot were inspired by ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, although I have naturally put my own spin on things; hope it meets with your approval

Feedback: Always appreciated, trust me
Mystery of the Phantom

As Elizabeth sat in the dining area on board the Daedalus, sipping on a cup of coffee- one definite advantage of renewed contact with Earth; a superior quality of coffee to what she’d been drinking since arriving in Atlantis- she allowed herself a slightly wistful smile as she stared out at the sight of the blurring blue of hyperspace passing by outside the window, taking her closer and closer to Atlantis with each passing moment.

According to the latest report from McKay, the ship had recently re-entered the Pegasus Galaxy and was now only a couple of days’ travel away from Atlantis; after almost two weeks of being cooped up in the ship to take a trip that had only taken a matter of moments to complete the first times she’d travelled through the Stargate, Elizabeth was looking forward to being back in her city.

And no, she told that small, traitorous part of herself that never seemed to shut up, her eagerness to be back in Atlantis had nothing to do with a certain masked individual…

She just couldn’t understand it; admitting to Simon that there was someone else was one thing, but actually doing something about that ‘someone else’ when she had so little idea about who he was…

Elizabeth would be lying if the thought didn’t make her feel… uncomfortable; there were so many unanswered questions when it came to Atlantis’s mysterious protector that she didn’t even know where to begin to find the answers…

It wasn’t that she doubted John’s loyalty to Atlantis- the fact that he’d simply stayed hidden when his apparent knowledge of the city would have allowed him to eliminate most of the people who opposed his presence with relative ease alone said a great deal about what kind of person he was-, but how could she feel… what she felt… about him when she knew virtually nothing about his past? Even now, She didn’t know where he came from, she didn’t know how he’d arrived in Atlantis, she didn’t know why he spoke to her rather than anyone else…

And yet… somehow, when she was with him… or even when she just casually thought about him without considering such issues as Sumner’s problem with his presence… none of that mattered.

All that mattered- all that she cared about in those moments- was being with John; whether it was talking to him about the latest crisis, or just that simple exchange when he’d given her that pot on her birthday, she was content with any conversation so long as it was with him…

Elizabeth almost couldn’t believe that this was her; it seemed so… unlike her, for lack of any better term. It wasn’t like she’d ever been one of those girls who was drawn to the mysterious guy who always sat at the back and never really answered any questions about his past, but there was something about the Phantom… something about his dedication, his courage, his…

Elizabeth wasn’t sure what it was about him precisely that drew her in, but there was definitely something there that made her want to know him more than she did.

It was almost as if- as strange as it sounded- she’d already known him… as if she knew she could trust him because he’d already proven himself…

“Doctor Weir?” a voice said, prompting her to glance up in the direction of the airman who’d just entered the room. “There’s been an accident.”

So much for hopes of a quiet trip… Elizabeth thought, sighing inwardly as she stood up and hurried after the airman.

As much as she liked to hope for the best, even without the fact that nobody would have sent for her if the resulting accident had been minor, living in Atlantis for a year had left her all too aware of the dangers that could be encountered when you left Earth…

A couple of hours later, as Colonel Sumner sat in silence in one of the laboratories while studying the video that was all that remained to provide them with any kind of information on Doctor Monroe’s death, he found himself wondering at what point his assignment to Atlantis had made him more of a police detective and less of a colonel.

Not only did he now have to deal with the obvious problems such as figuring out what could have killed Monroe like that- the doors he was found besides may have all the signs of a short-circuit but at the same time there was no way the doors alone could generate enough power to do that kind of damage-, but even if he solved this before he got back to Atlantis, he still had to sort out the problem of what he was going to do about tracking down the Phantom when he got back…

Actually, that was the main reason for his current problem, really; as much as Sumner wanted to still be the same man he’d been before the siege, dedicated to capturing the Phantom for the good of Atlantis before he could do any damage to the city that they were still only just beginning to understand…

No matter how much he tried to remind himself of the dangers the Phantom’s way of doing things presented, he couldn’t deny that the man’s independent attitude hadn’t actually hurt them so far.

He might have acted on his own rather than cooperating with the conventional military forces on Atlantis during such instances as the nanite crisis or the Genii invasion, but no matter how hard he tried Sumner couldn’t think of a single way in which the Phantom could have cooperated with his men in those instances; on both occasions, the majority of the military had either been on another planet or isolated due to the Atlantis quarantine, making it impossible for there to be anyone available for the Phantom to coordinate with in the first place.

And as for the siege…

The Phantom might have taken charge rather than working with them, but given his clearly-demonstrated superior knowledge of the city, it was only natural for him to take control like that; where would the sense have been in having him take orders when he knew more about the city’s capabilities than anyone among their forces did?

In a way, he was rather grateful that the current situation was one that he could be certain the Phantom wouldn’t be getting involved in- given how far they were from Atlantis it seemed unlikely that the man would be taking part in this particular mess, after all-; at least it meant that he could put off dealing with those issues in favour of solving this latest little mystery.

It was just frustrating that the ‘mystery’ in question was proving to be almost as complicated as the situation with the Phantom in its way. While the burn marks on Monroe’s fingertips and the charred door control circuits suggested he’d been electrocuted, McKay had confirmed that the circuits lacked the power to generate enough electrical current to actually kill anyone, and the fact that the camera footage of the accident had turned to static just at the moment that Monroe was killed certainly suggested something else was going on…

The only question was, what could have caused it? McKay’s theory about an isolated power surge had potential, but after spending the better part of a year in Atlantis he couldn’t shake a feeling that there was more going on here than he knew…

“Colonel Sumner?” a voice said from the door, prompting Sumner to glance over to see McKay standing there.

“Yes, Doctor?” he asked, pushing himself slightly away from the desk to face the other man. “What seems to be the trouble?”

“Well, I’ve just been talking to Colonel Caldwell about the whole ‘dropping-out-of-hyperspace’ thing…” McKay began, looking uncomfortably at Sumner- most likely judging how he’d react to Caldwell being approached before him; Sumner had made it clear to Caldwell that they’d defer to his authority while on Daedalus, but some of the Atlantis staff still felt obligated to go to him or Weir first- before he continued. “Anyway, I think Monroe’s death wasn’t an accident; I checked the power distribution logs against the time code on the security camera, and the only unexplained power spike at the time happened thirty seconds after the camera went off, which means that they weren’t caused by the same problem…”

“Anything else?” Sumner asked, his year-long experience of the Canadian making it clear to him that there was more to what McKay was saying.

“Well… the fact that Doctor Monroe was working on enabling some computer security protocols when he died is a bit suspicious…” McKay said, as he looked uncomfortably at the other man. “I know it sounds crazy, but-”

“You think someone killed Monroe to cover up a problem with the ship,” Sumner finished, already standing up. “Has Caldwell stopped the ship?”

“Yeah…” McKay confirmed.

“Good,” Sumner said, nodding briskly at McKay as he walked out of the room. “Get to the computer room and see what you and Hermiod can come up with; I’ll join you as soon as I’ve confirmed our position.”

Daedalus might be the most advanced piece of Earth technology currently in space, but if they were going to remain immobile in hostile territory Sumner would prefer to know what they were dealing with as soon as possible…

As he strode urgently down the corridor towards the location where the latest accident had occurred a couple of hours later, Sumner couldn’t help but wonder how things had come to this; this was meant to be a routine trip back to Atlantis- or as ‘routine’ as anything like this could be, given that the Daedalus had only made this trip once before now-, and here they were with a second death having occurred only two days away from Atlantis and still not even the slightest clue who was responsible for them.

Goddamnit… he groaned, cursing inwardly as he recalled what he’d read about the latest death- a technician who’d been helping McKay go over the logs had been sucked out through an airlock when a coolant pipe had ruptured and forced him to retreat in that direction-, who the hell decided that it was a good idea to store the ship’s logs near an airlock?

He was definitely going to have words with Stargate Command when he was done here…

As he rounded the corner where the accident had been reported, the confirming nod from Beckett was all he needed to know that McKay was going to be fine before he moved to stand in front of the Canadian scientist.

“I take it this rules out any possibility of an accident?” he asked.

“Given that Lindstrom was about to tell me something about the source of the power spikes that killed Doctor Monroe before the leak, I think that’s a pretty safe bet, yeah,” McKay confirmed.

“Who else would know what you were doing?” Caldwell put in.

“Well, a lot of people knew we were running diagnostics, but nobody knew we were in that particular room at that exact moment,” McKay replied, only a slight trace of confusion betraying his concern at recent events.

“Which leaves us with the possibility that whoever’s behind this can access the security cameras to erase evidence and monitor our investigation…” Sumner mused, before he looked back at McKay. “How many personnel on board have the technical skills to do something like this?”

“Almost everybody!” McKay replied, looking over at Caldwell in only slightly-winded frustration. “That’s what you get for assembling a team of brilliant scientists!”

“Well, we’ve already conducted thorough searches of the Daedalus before departing from Atlantis and every day ever since; even without the headcount from the life-signs detectors, there’s no way that an intruder could have remained hidden for this long without us knowing it,” Caldwell said, shaking his head at that theory before he turned to look at one of his officers. “As of this moment, I want our civilian personnel confined to quarters.”

“What?” Doctor Weir- Sumner hadn’t fully registered her presence earlier; she’d been standing in a nearby doorway- said, walking out of the door to look pointedly at Caldwell.

“It’s the only sensible decision,” Sumner said, looking over at Weir with the same stare he’d perfected when discussing the Phantom. “As Doctor McKay just pointed out, there’s no way to know who’s responsible for what’s been happening here; until we can confirm anyone’s guilt or otherwise, we have to confine everyone not present at this time.”

Even as he walked off with Caldwell to issue the relevant order, Sumner couldn’t help but think that he could almost feel the glares of his colleagues from Atlantis practically boring into his back.

He knew they weren’t going to like it, but that was the way things had to be; he had to maintain some degree of professional detachment if he was going to effectively do his job on Atlantis, and getting sentimental about letting people wander around freely when there was evidence to suggest one of them was guilty of murder wouldn’t help that.

Atlantis had enough authority issues with the Phantom’s presence alone; he couldn’t afford to let attachments cloud his judgement at times like this.

Chapter End Notes: 2: OK, quick appeal for assistance; can anyone think of a good name for a pilot to take John’s place in that brief flight to destroy the Daedalus communication array?

Just one warning; don’t expect to get too attached to the guy…

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