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Author's Chapter Notes: AN: Another episode 'jump', but I felt that it was appropriate. John would still be reduced to an amnesic state in "Tabula Rasa" as he didn't arrive in the Pegasus Galaxy at an age when he'd have been young enough to gain an immunity to Kirsan fever (and he was obviously spending time in isolation when he arrived, so would have been unlikely to be in a position to be infected with it anyway), so his presence wouldn't change much about the episode apart from some people freaking out about his face. That said, this chapter will begin during the events of "The Missing" while Teyla and Jennifer are away, and feature a VERY significant development in my storyline that would have never happened in the show for reasons that will soon become obvious…


With Teyla and Jennifer off checking up on the off-Atlantis Athosians, John was using the rare opportunity of a quiet moment to catch up on the ever-tedious-but-necessary paperwork of his new role. Major Lorne had been helping him get to grips with this part of the business for the first few weeks, considering that he'd never actually dealt with any official paperwork since his high school exams before coming to Atlantis, but John liked to think he'd picked up on the essentials by now, to the point where it was easy for him to pick out what he actually had to deal with and what was purely optional or could be delayed.

Requisition form for new weapons to replace what was lost on the exploration of that ice world last month… permission to send this new seeds back to Earth for analysis… get Captain Satterfield a chance to gain some offworld experience…

"Unscheduled offworld activation!" Chuck's voice announced, prompting John to get up from his office and hurry towards the control room. His office was a bit outside the main tower, but it was close enough that it only took him a couple of minutes to get to the gate control room, where he joined Elizabeth and McKay as she stood over Chuck's shoulder.

"What is it?" he asked, looking anxiously at the city's leader and its senior gate technician.

"It's… Dagan?" Chuck said, looking up from the monitor in surprise. "It's been a few years, but isn't that the world where we thought there was a ZPM?"

"On that topic-" McKay began as he looked over at John.

"Yes, it's one of the ones in my storehouse, and no you can't take a look at it specifically, mainly because I don't remember which one it is any more," John said, before looking curiously at Chuck. "Any reason they'd be calling us?"

"Nothing that I can think of, but they're sending a message on the transmitter we left them," Chuck replied, indicating the communication screen by his seat. "I was just waiting for one of the senior staff to get here before I responded."

"Well, we're all here now," John said, glancing at Elizabeth. "Why didn't you respond first?"

"I thought you should be here considering your history with this planet," Elizabeth said, taking in his current appearance of the Phantom's standard mask over a dark BDU. "You really wear that writing your reports?"

"It's comfortable and easier to put on than the make-up," John replied; Elizabeth had shown a remarkable acceptance of his face under the mask, but he still felt more comfortable wearing this during his daily activities. "Anyway, let's hear what the Brotherhood have to say."

"Bring up the message," Elizabeth nodded at Chuck, who tapped a couple of buttons before the screen by his desk came on, revealing a trembling young woman in [see episode] who screamed as soon as the image had formed.

"What is he doing there?" the woman yelled, pointing at the screen.

"Hey, I'm-" McKay began.

"You actually stand with that… 'man' after he broke the trust that so many have held in him?" the woman continued, and John had a sneaking suspicion he knew who she was pointing at. "We gave him the treasure of the Ancestors, and he-"

"I'm not the one you're talking about," John cut the woman off, staring firmly at the screen. "I've been here for the past few days, and I've not been back to your world since you gave me your ZPM."

"You dare to lie-?"

"I'm not lying," John cut the woman off, keeping his gaze firmly fixed on the screen, hoping that the image at the other end was clear enough to make his point even with the mask. "I swear on the Ancestors, the Astra Portia, the relic you entrusted to me, and everything you hold dear; whatever has happened on your planet, I did not do it."

"The Phantom has been assisting us with matters on Atlantis for the past week," Elizabeth cut in, looking just as confused by this turn of events as he was as she looked at the screen. "You have our sympathies for whatever attacked you, but I can assure you that it was not him."

To the woman's credit, she seemed to take control of herself as she took in their words, looking between John and Elizabeth for a few moments before she gave a tentative nod.

"So…" she said, looking uncertainly at the two leaders of Atlantis. "You are saying… the Phantom was not responsible for this attack?"

"I'm saying that I was not responsible," John said, a darker suspicion nurturing in his mind as he looked at this woman. "But can I assume you were attacked by someone wearing a mask like this one and wielding my traditional weaponry?"

"…Yes," the woman nodded, clearly realising what John was implying. "But… how is that possible?"

"It would need a great deal of time and effort, but that doesn't mean it would be impossible, particularly depending on when it started," the masked man noted solemnly, mind already turning over the options. "We'll track down the perpetrator and get back to you when we have an answer."

"What was that?" McKay looked between John and Elizabeth as Chuck ended the communication. "Why are you talking about… oh my God, are you saying there's another Phantom out there?"

"No," John said firmly. "We are not dealing with another Phantom; we are dealing with a man who has some unspecified vendetta against me that drove him to try and attack a planet where he knew I'd been in order to damage my reputation."

"OK, that… why would someone do this?"

"…You're kidding, right?" John looked incredulously at McKay, amazed that a man who constantly proclaimed his own intelligence hadn't worked this out already. "Trying to pass me off as some kind of psychopath who's killing people just because? I'm amazed nobody tried something like this before now!"

"That's… probably our fault, all things considered," Elizabeth said, looking apologetically at John. "You were always focused on the Wraith before you started helping us, so no human would have had any reason to do something against you; after we got here, you've shown a preference for us over, say, the Genii…"

Her voice trailed off as she looked at John, a growing sense of horror in her eyes as she saw the same idea occur to him. "You think-?"

"Well-trained, good resources, charismatic enough to make people go along with some truly heinous plans, and a serious vendetta against me for the last three years; give him the right tools and he could do it," John said grimly.

"You're… not talking about who I think you're talking about, right?" Chuck glanced anxiously back at the three senior members of Atlantis. "I mean, didn't you… well, he was basically a disgraced crippled after that mess with Lucius, right?"

"He was resourceful enough to keep everything together even as he kept on losing ground when his plans failed; he's probably still got something to fall back on now," John said grimly.

"But couldn't it be the Replicators-?"

"They're not petty enough." John thought for a moment about his last words. "I mean they're not individually petty enough; they want to punish humanity because the Ancients picked us over them, but I haven't done anything to the Replicators that would make them mad enough to single out me for an individual revenge like this."

"It makes sense," Elizabeth nodded. "The Replicators had no reason to focus on ruining John's reputation even before we redirected them against the Wraith; Koyla's the only person who might go this far."

"Right," John said, looking over at Elizabeth. "We can't wait for Teyla to get back from New Athos; get Captain Satterfield and tell her we're going to Garthan."

"Garthan?" Elizabeth asked.

"Master metal-workers," John explained with a smile. "I used one of their forges overnight to create the original framework for my mask; if anyone's posing as me, Garthan is the only planet skilled enough in metalwork to create a convincing replica of my mask that would fool people who've actually met me before outside of Atlantis."

"You've been there before?" Elizabeth asked.

"Heard about their reputation," John clarified. "They're distant enough from the centre of the galaxy to avoid random culling from the Wraith, and their Stargate has an interesting defence system that stops darts going there but lets people in, so they're reasonably advanced by Pegasus standards even if they don't have enough resources to actually create spaceships."

"They don't have resources?" McKay asked.

"Think of it as being a more extreme version of how Earth doesn't have any naquadah or trinium on it; they have enough fossil fuels and the like to get into orbit if they wanted, but when they have a grounded Stargate and nothing they could use as fuel for any kind of hyperspace engine, they've never bothered trying to go further any other way."

"Interesting," Elizabeth said. "Is that why you've never suggested we go to them before?"

"Yeah; they're good at what they do, and they've got a few bits of tech they can use to defend themselves, but it's not the kind of strength that would actually help anything we want to do and they rely on their secrecy to maintain their civilisation's freedom, so it just seemed fairer on all concerned to leave them alone."

"Well," Elizabeth said, making a note to edit her report back to Earth to avoid the implication of John making that kind of unilateral decision, "just remember to be careful; we seem to have convinced them that you weren't the one responsible for whatever happened, but be prepared for the fact that some people may still react badly."

"I'm used to it."

The tragedy was that Elizabeth could easily imagine that; just because of John's face, he would have been judged and attacked as soon as anyone saw him before he got his mask…


Chapter End Notes: AN 2: So, anyone got any guesses who the faux Phantom is?

All I'll give you right now is that it's someone you all know and love to loathe…

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