Brian gazed at the depiction of a band of men—if they were, in fact, men—marching as if to battle. They seemed to radiate beams of light, each wore robes of a lustrous blue, and each possessed a strange, remarkably inhuman head, elongated, almost serpentine. Their eyes were triangular rather than ovoid, slits rather than orbs.
“They look kind of like you,” Brian said.
“Yes,” Bata said. “They were my kinsmen, though thousands of thousands of generations separate me from them. I am the last.”
“Who are you?” Brian asked. “Who were they?”
“The Shemsu-Ra,” Bata said. “The first sentient race to evolve on this world. They were old when your ancestors were first learning to chip rock.”
“See.” Bata traced a panel with his finger. “They go to war. The first great war on this planet.”
“Who were they fighting?” Brian asked.
“Evil. The Great Lie,” Bata said. “The Darkness.”
“Gotcha,” Brian said.
“They beat back the Darkness,” Bata said, his voice swelling with pride. “They freed the world from Its grasp. Most of them perished in the struggle. They knew that when the next great challenge came, it would fall to the Earth’s younger race to answer it.”
“Yes. It is unfortunate that your race has not the inner strength of the Shemsu-Ra. They have always shown a weakened resistance to the influence of the Darkness.”
“Sorry,” Brian replied, unsure what else to say.
“The Shemsu-Ra gathered their fallen,” Bata said, pointing at another panel. “Among them their leader, the warrior-king Ra. They took pieces of them, and these they placed inside the younger race. Your race.”
“Hold on,” Brian said. “I don’t understand.”
“They planted seeds,” Bata said. “Many seeds. Planted them very deeply.”
“I don’t get it.”
“What makes a man?” Bata asked. “What is a man composed of?”
“More questions?” Brian said.
“What are you made of?” Bata said. “At your deepest depth?”
“Flesh and blood, I guess,” Brian said.
“Hell, I don’t know. DNA?” Brian paused. “Wait a minute, are you saying you guys screwed around with human DNA?”
“Many seeds,” Bata said. “Passed on from generation to generation.”
“Shit,” Brian muttered.
“So many, indeed, that the probability of one member of your race managing to gather them all—inherit them all—was infinitesimal,” Bata said. “Only after a great passage of time would it happen. Only at the appointed time.”
“So what did these things in our DNA do to us?” Brian asked.
“They impart all the gifts of the Shemsu-Ra,” Bata said, “To the one in whom all the seeds are gathered. Do you comprehend?”
“Not a word.”
“Follow.” Bata moved to the next wall. He tapped another glyph with the tip of a slender finger. This one looked different, more modern. Rather, Brian realized, the individual it depicted appeared more modern. An old, grey-bearded man dressed in a shirt and pants, standing in a small boat. In each hand he clutched a snake, while a square object floated in the representation of water nearby.
“Who’s he?” Brian asked.
“His name was Jacob Weiss,” Bata said.
Brian froze. “That name….my parents used to tell me about him.”
“A man who pulled a child from the waters,” Bata said. “He was that man. You were that child.”
“So all this does have something to do with me,” Brian said.
“It has everything to do with you,” Bata answered. He walked to the next panel. Brian followed. His breath caught in his throat.
“No freakin’ way!” Brian said.
The depiction on the wall could be of no one else but himself, the resemblance unmistakable. In the picture, Brian stood with his arms outstretched, emitting beams of blue light. His bare skin, rendered even in the correct olive hue, bore tattooing on every visible area, strange glyphs and symbols, akin to what he saw on Bata’s flesh. Brian’s image wore an Egyptian-style headdress, while the dazzling bronze disc of the sun rose behind him like an oversized halo.
“The Chosen,” Bata said. “The one in whom all the seeds are gathered. The last of the first race, the scion of the Shemsu-Ra.”
“He who must stand against the Darkness in the next great conflict. The champion of the younger race.”
“No way!” “You are that man,” Bata said. “You are the Chosen.”