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

AN: This chapter is relatively short, but it's mainly intended to foreshadow the next one; hope you like it

Mystery of the Phantom

Elizabeth was almost afraid to jinx it, but she had to admit that the last couple of weeks had gone by relatively smoothly.

Not only had they successfully recovered Ronon and destroyed another hive-ship, but the next few offworld missions had all been relatively straightforward ones as well; a few close calls with a couple of less welcoming natives than they had anticipated, but it was never anything to the same extent as what they'd dealt with prior to Ronon being captured, and they'd managed to make a few potentially useful alliances in the process.

Admittedly, relations between Ronon and Sumner were slightly strained- the former Runner would have preferred it if Sumner had allowed him to eliminate the Wraith commander himself, and resented having that chance taken from him-, but it wasn't anything more serious than what their dynamic had been before the abduction; as long as the two of them were still able to work together, Elizabeth didn't feel the need to try and mend fences that hadn't made that much of a difference when they were there.

Besides, with their latest discovery about what was on the other side of the Stargate address they'd just discovered in the database, Elizabeth had more important matters to think about...

"Hello," said the voice that Elizabeth had been waiting to hear for longer than she liked to remember, prompting her to turn and smile at the sight of the masked man standing behind her.

"Hello, John," she said, smiling warmly at him, unwilling to think too much about what she'd said to him in their last meeting; that part of their lives was over now, and she could only hope that John knew that she would never judge him for wearing a mask around her.

"Nice job with Ronon's rescue last week," John said, smiling in approval at her as though his silence from the last few weeks had never happened. "Good to see the Orion pulling its weight."

"We wouldn't even have been able to accomplish that much if it wasn't for your contribution," Elizabeth said, smiling gratefully at John before another thought came to her. "I don't suppose you...?"

"All I know about the Orion-class's power source is that they rely on a slightly lower-grade ZPM in the engine core; I can't give you any more than that," John said, looking apologetically at her. "I've had a lot of time to study the database, but certain parts were always easier to follow than others; working out how to fix some things was easier than working out how to build something from scratch."

"Talking of the database," Elizabeth said, looking curiously at him, "how come you never visited this colony?"

"As you've observed yourself, all the database said about it was that it was the site of an abandoned Ancient experiment," John replied, shrugging slightly. "I didn't have any means of checking out what the colony was like without going through the Stargate myself, and it was too far away for me to visit it with my hyperdrive-capable... gateship; even if I'd taken the ship to another 'gate and travelled to it from there, it was too far away for me to feel comfortable checking out a planet that could have been turned into a radioactive husk or something like that."

"That's... a bit negative, isn't it?" Elizabeth aside, looking uncertainly at the man in the mask.

"When it comes to the Ancients, I find that, when they admit their errors, it's best to assume the worst," John said. "I may live in their city, but I'm not blind to the mistakes they've made in the past; I didn't see the point of risking a trip to a potentially dangerous planet just to find another way they'd possibly screwed up."

"But now that you know what it is..." Elizabeth asked.

"Give it a shot," John said, smiling at her. "Anything involving apparently live Ancients is definitely worth you paying them a visit."

"Good," Elizabeth said, nodding at John.

It wasn't that she would have cancelled the mission if John hadn't approved of it, but it was good to receive confirmation from her greatest available Ancient expert that this mission was worth her decision to take a rare personal trip through the Stargate.

If all went well, they'd be coming back to the city in a few hours with a new alliance with some very powerful allies...


AN 2: As I said, short, but the next one's going to be more interesting, as we enter the events of a VERY particular 'Atlantis' episode...