“Imagine for a moment that the center of your world is an 80 foot tall step pyramid. Your great-great grandfather literally laid the foundation for this monument to your Gods. You pass it everyday on your way to eat, pray or meet friends.Your Grand father placed its capstone.”

Krystal let the words hang in the air above the students heads like thick cigarette smoke. Donning a smart beige pants suit and Elysia glasses, finished in a bright brushed copper, she looks the part of the cool young history professor.

Krystal manually adjusts he glasses for improved visibility and scans the gallery for signs of life.

For most of her History of the world 101 students, this Pyramid visualization could prove to be a difficult exercise. Except for maybe Mr. Trumbul. Already in dreamland, Trumbul is in his usual seat in the back right corner of the lecture hall. Feet up on the row in front of him, a steady low snore that is almost indistinguishable from the HVAC system growls from his perch.

Krystal’s eyes dart toward the sound and just as quickly don the costume of “disappointed but not surprised”. Without a thought she lifts the apple shaped stress ball at the corner of her desk, and in a fluid motion hurls it at the space between Trumbul’s eyes.

He wakes up with a start and the classroom echoes with gasps and rapturous laughter.

“What do you see Mike?”, Krystal cruelly quizzes the confused and sleep deprived 22 year old.

“Uhhhh…”

Calling people out was an admittedly twisted pleasure for Krystal but it keeps these lectures interesting.

“Sorry Doc, I um. i think…” He croaked.

“You’re of course overwhelmed by the grandeur of the pyramid. Let me paint a clearer picture for you and some of your classmates who may also have been rendered speechless by the architectural prowess of the pre-classical Maya.”

Despite her class being capped at 45 students every year, History of the World 101, was always booked in a hall for 100. She’d been asking for a smaller room for ages, at one point thinking closer proximity to the students would help them engage. That was a couple years ago when she was still optimistic about everything, albeit naive. In that time the few gray hairs growing in at her temples, were less inspired by age and instead served as merit badges of an explorer that unafraid of to face conflict, or danger head on.  

In the back corner of the class across from Trumbul’s spot, sat two heavy set men in dark business suits. Both were much older than her students and it showed on their sun worn faces. ‘For a Tuesday this is decent turn out’ Krystal thought, before continuing with the narrative:

“Now your father, toils daily in the shadow of this behemoth. In the humid jungle heat, he pours treated, bright white limestone to lay a simple but exquisitely effective pavement solution, that will carry you and your future family to and from points of interest throughout the empire.”

“Elysia group display.” Krystal commanded loudly.

With those three words the lights in the lecture hall dim. A 3D version of the crenelated Talteka steppe lights up above the gallery. It looks like a gigantic burial mound formed of scraggly but uniform stone with a Maya Christmas ornament protruding from its highest point.

Trumbul and a few other back row dwellers quietly shuffle to get a closer look. A couple climb over seats to catch a good view as the floating ghost pyramid rotates. The two shadowy business men don’t budge.

Krystal splits her index and middle finger, like a tiny swimmer doing the butterfly stroke, and focuses the model. Reducing the rotation to a slow crawl, she zooms in on the capstone and the bottom two thirds of the pyramid fall away, focusing in on an intricate  golden snake sculpture.

“The snake kings were the guys with the vision. And their vision was grand. Until about 2017 AD, historians believed that the preclassic period that lasted for 2000 years, was a time of nomad hunter gatherers. Generations of explorers and archaeologists recovered artifacts through out the Matagalpa basin, thinking that the broken crumbs of pieces like these, were valuable antiquities.”

From Krystal’s point of view, She could see the next slide waiting to be summoned into the group display field. She could see the notifications as students joined the presentation to record on their Elysia devices. Those less savvy, read freshmen ( and Mr. Trumbul), struggled to keep up typing their notes.

The upside to this conference gallery is the tech, she thought. With zero latency Krystal is able to pulls up images from her expedition into her HUD, and with a command, presents them to her class. In this space, the implant in her wrists and fingers serve as universal remote for any connected Elysia system. If only Catherwood and Stephens had Elysia in their day to virtually separate the  pyramids from generations of tree growth, sand and decay.

“In hindsight, what ancient archaeologists had found was only the tip of the iceberg or, the tip of the empire as it were. “

With a snap: A rendering of Talteka in its prime replaces its derelict current circumstance and glows in the center of the room. Krystal flicks her index and middle finger, showing off, and spins the golden pyramid on its axis to the delight of the students.

“Pretty, right? But we’re still only getting started. — As the pyramid slowed, she noticed the two barrel chested visitors at the back of her class were distracted one typing feverishly while the other whispered. She shook off the interruption and continued the presentation.

Forming her hands in the shape of a diamond, and then spreading them downward, she undresses the pyramid as if sliding off an invisibility cloak, to reveal a model of the massive empire of Matagalpa.

“Listen gang: The Mayan Snake Kings constructed over 52 step pyramids and 250 miles of raised limestone roads. the area you’re looking at is the size of los angeles”.

A hand shoots up in the back.

“Yes Mr. Trumbul: Los Angeles including Avalon Island. Somehow, you’re always awake when I mention your home town.”

The arm descends back into darkness. Trumbul shrugs off the giggles of his classmates.

Krystal highlights the network of roads between the major pyramids and places of worship. With a wave of her hand a virtual river flows into the diagram.

“The raised roads were critical for the farming system. The soil throughout Matagalpa was remarkably fertile and the aqueducts they created adjacent to their roads allowed for ambitious irrigation and planting throughout the empire

“That’s beautiful Dr. Wylie!”, a familiar voice shouts from the darkness. Krystal knows what’s next and is already rolling her eyes.  

“Now show them the video from when you first tried to get these scans.”

She’s forgotten that when she rolls her eyes Elysia will misinterpret it as a command, and the BIM model is sent careening into the ceiling.

“Lights up!”, Krystal commands with a frustrated sigh and the hall is illuminated.

Standing atop the gallery steps wearing his signature grey 3 piece suit, quaffed hair, and shit eating grin is Dr. Dillon Marion. He’s built as if one of the Winklevoss twins ate the other to reach their final form, but hasn’t digested yet.

“Nope today I will not be showing you the time I fell up an ancient step pyramid. But next class we’ll talk about how the empire of Matagalpa came crashing down.”

Seconds later a loud constant beep poured thru the Audio system, signaling the change of periods.

“SEE YOU NEXT WEEK,” Krystal yelled over the signal. “Elysia disconnect.”

*Bloop.*

And her eyes were hers again to give Dillon dirty looks for interrupting her finale.

Trumbul reluctantly walked to the front of the class to present the plastic apple that nearly took his life earlier.

“Sorry again Doc. Got in on the red eye from Avalon this morning” As he slyly handed her the stress ball.

“No excuse necessary. But Don’t let it happen again Mike. Next time I might reach for my sabertooth skull paperweight.” She shot back with a wink.

“No problem, Hey Dean Marion,” Trumbul slumped off with a  chuckle giving way to Dillon.

Krystal  trained her gaze on the men at the back of her class. It was way to warm in San Diego this time of year for dark business suits. She also noticed they carried one tablet between them and nothing else.

Dillon finally sauntered down the Gallery steps and as the last student walked passed him, spoke.

“I have news. ” Without breaking his stupid grin. He checked to make sure the students had left the room

“I have news too. I have a lock on a possible location Dillon. 30th times a charm—”

“That’s cool. But it’s gotta wait. I have real news. Men are here to see you.”

Krystal removes her glasses, compulsively cleaning them.

“These.. men?,” but they were gone. “That’s odd, they were—“ Dillon doesn’t even look back.

“No, in my office. I have some men here to meet you.”  

“*sigh*— Dillon, whenever you try to hook me up with one of your friends, they can’t keep up. Now you want to make it a team sport?”

“This is business Krystal, men from the government.”

“What men?”

“Serious, men. And one really mean woman. Follow me”

Krystal shrugged.

On the walk over. She struggled to keep up with Dillon’s long gate. He only walked this fast if it was serious.

At one point she would have called Dillon her best friend, but he shirked the title when he opted to leave the field for easier an easier life behind a desk ….. annnndd when he tried to unceremoniously graduate their relationship into a romantic one.

As they entered Dillon’s large corner office Krystal felt a pang of resentment. She was still spending her vacations, sparse time off — including this past weekend—  tracking down or sprinting around the world to acquire artifacts; that put butts in seats, that paid for Dillon’s fancy suit. But somehow it’s fair that her apartment could fit in his office.

The thought flickered away at the sight of the two military secretaries at Dillons desk, standing up to greet her.

“Allow me to introduce, Dr. Krystal Wylie, Professor of archaeology, philanthropist, adventurer, diver and locater of rare antiquities.”  

He was pouring it on thick. Dillon must have sold them on something magnificent. As strong an archaeologist as he was, he was the greatest bullshit artist of all time, Krystal thought.

“Dr. Wylie its an honor and a pleasure.” A stoic voice called from the corner window. Dillon’s smile retreated as a tiny woman in an all gray suit, with Army patches, turned and then stepped forward to shake Krystal’s hand.

“I’m Lieutenant Secretary Ford of Army intelligence. That’s Coreman Secretary Deems and Secretary Masters.”

Ford stood at 5’5” with  her hair pulled back in impeccable braids. They looked

The hair on the back of Krystal’s neck stood up as straight as the spines of Deems and Ford. Secretary’s the highest military rank in the International Planetary Coalition; and Coreman secretaries, are only seen in the real world when there is a threat to  health and welfare.

“It’s my pleasure, “ Krystal responded shakily. “Excuse my apprehension, but for a moment I thought I was in trouble for mentioning Avalon in class today.”

Secretary Masters coughed out a laugh. Ford erased the smile from his face with a look. “Sorry Ma’am.”

Ford donned a polite smile before responding. “Not at all. This isn’t McCarthy era. You’ll actually find most officials in our branch support the Avalon succession. But we’re here to discuss a different, more sensitive matter. I fear with Mr. Marion’s skill for presentation, he may have already shared too much.

Dillon jumped in, “ I’ve done as instructed: I didn’t say a word madam secretary.” this intrigued Krystal. Reason number 4081 why Dillon would never make for more than a exploring partner: he was a terrible gossip. Somehow this tiny woman had frightened him into keeping his mouth shut. Albeit it was a 10 minute walk from his office to Krystal’s classroom, but this was a remarkable development.

Secretary Ford seized her queue, “Dr. Wylie, have you ever heard from Professor Regis Chuda recently?”

“No I haven’t. Dr. Chuda was my mentor. Well once my father fell ill he became my mentor.”

The two male secretaries exchange emotionless looks and type something into their tablets.

 “I haven’t talked to Uncle Regis in almost 6 years, when he accepted his Giddora award. ”

The two seated secretaries take more notes.

“Wait why is that important? What’s going on?!” Krystal was getting nervous.

“Several days ago, Professor Chuda’s lab was broken into and his research stolen. We were called in to investigate, given some of the potential uses of his inventions. But like you, no one at the laboratory facility has seen the Professor in years and we can’t make heads or tails of where he might be.”

Krystal was getting a bad feeling. She felt terrible having fallen out of touch with her beloved Uncle Regis. Uncle Regis, was a known recluse, and his wife Roz, had been his personal secretary for over a decade, to ensure when he went off galavanting, someone had a clue as to where. Something must be terribly wrong.

“We were at a loss until, we found this photograph of you two at the ceremony. Elysia group display.”

The wall behind Dillon lit up. There was a photo of Krystal, slightly younger than now, with a wide grin on her face. Bookended by Roz and Regis, everyone in the photo was so proud. Professor Chuda held a tiny black box about the size of a coffee mug in one hand while young Krystal held up his Giddora award. Roz held the certificate for, “Excellence in the fields of messianic string theory and ancient studies.” Krystal got goosebumps staring at the photo; she hadn’t seen it in years. Regis had the only copy.

“Dr. Wylie, we know what you did. What we don’t understand is why you wouldn’t accept a prestigious award and whether your lie all those years ago has precipitated some sort of foul play that affected the Professor.”

The only person in the room, at this point who didn’t know that Krystal was the true, deserving archaeologist for the Giddorah award was Dillon.

“Wait— you lied?!?!” under the circumstances, three words for Dillon is the equivalent of speechless.

Tears slowly started tp drip down Krystal’s cheeks.

“Wait. What did you lie about?”, the photo on the projection wall danced violently across the room, as secretary Ford rolled her eyes at Dillons stupidity.  

“My apologies. Dr. Wylie?

Krystal finally spoke, “When you searched his lab, did you find the black box?”

Everyone’s attention turned to the wall behind Dillon. The photo is still again and the black box in Chuda’s fist seems to jump off the wall.

The 3 secretaries turn to one another, confused and at the same time emboldened by a potential clue.

“ No ma’am only this photo”, Masters finally breaks their silence.

“Regis is many things. Including a recluse and an ass hole who flies off on adventures at the drop of a hat. But he would never leave the lab without that photo and the box never leaves the lab.”, Krystal responded robotically.

“I noticed some trolls auditing my class today. Now there’s a couple moves I can make here, that I’m sure would be a huge help to you and your investigation.”

Masters tapped the back of her left hand with her right index and middle fingers replacing the photo on the wall with a keyboard display.

“Please, start from the beginning.” 

The end.