"The Three Unknowns" by Severna Park: An Appreciation by Merrie Haskell
Of course, my little geek niche isn't a fair way to judge a hook, but I bet she had the rest of you by "Mars" at the latest.
And if archaeology and Mars aren't enough, Severna Park gives us (in no particular order): academic infighting, smarmy-lusty ship captains, twelve flavors of protein supplements, the first extraterrestrial McDonald's, exile, betrayal, revenge, forgeries, middens, obelisks and Alpha Centauri.
And she gives us wonderful bits about archaeology that point to both the truth and inherent humor of the profession, like:
"On Earth, the first things Althea would have looked for were the town dump and the cemetery. The wealth of civilizations eventually ended up in one place or the other."
"The Three Unknowns" hits so many of my brain-buttons on what makes for good story that reading it for the first time was like mainlining chocolate espresso beans. The fact that SCI FICTION managed to find these chocolate espresso beans and share them regularly still amazes me. I will miss the weekly jolt.
Link to story.