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´╗┐Title: Man of Distinction
Author: Shaara, Michael
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Man of Distinction" ***

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                          MAN OF DISTINCTION

                           By MICHAEL SHAARA

                      Illustrated By DICK FRANCIS

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                 Galaxy Science Fiction October 1956.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

             Being unique is a matter of pride--but being
                a complete mathematical impossibility?

The remarkable distinction of Thatcher Blitt did not come to the
attention of a bemused world until late in the year 2180. Although
Thatcher Blitt was, by the standards of his time, an extremely
successful man financially, this was not considered _real_ distinction.
Unfortunately for Blitt, it never has been.

The history books do not record the names of the most successful
merchants of the past unless they happened by chance to have been
connected with famous men of the time. Thus Croesus is remembered
largely for his contributions to famous Romans and successful armies.
And Haym Solomon, a similarly wealthy man, would have been long
forgotten had he not also been a financial mainstay of the American
Revolution and consorted with famous, if impoverished, statesmen.

So if Thatcher Blitt was distinct among men, the distinction was not
immediately apparent. He was a small, gaunt, fragile man who had the
kind of face and bearing that are perfect for movie crowd scenes.
Absolutely forgettable. Yet Thatcher Blitt was one of the foremost
businessmen of his time. For he was president and founder of that noble
institution, Genealogy, Inc.

Thatcher Blitt was not yet 25 when he made the discovery which was to
make him among the richest men of his time. His discovery was, like all
great ones, obvious yet profound. He observed that every person had a

       *       *       *       *       *

Carrying on with this thought, it followed inevitably that every father
had a father, and so on. In fact, thought Blitt, when you considered
the matter rightly, everyone alive was the direct descendant of untold
numbers of fathers, down through the ages, all descending, one after
another, father to son. And so backward, unquestionably, into the
unrecognizable and perhaps simian fathers of the past.

This thought, on the face of it not particularly profound, struck
young Blitt like a blow. He saw that since each man had a father, and
so on and so on, it ought to be possible to construct the genealogy of
every person now alive. In short, it should be possible to trace your
family back, father by father, to the beginning of time.

And of course it was. For that was the era of the time scanner. And
with a time scanner, it would be possible to document your family tree
with perfect accuracy. You could find out exactly from whom you had

And so Thatcher Blitt made his fortune. He saw clearly at the beginning
what most of us see only now, and he patented it. He was aware not only
of the deep-rooted sense of snobbishness that exists in many people,
but also of the simple yet profound force of curiosity. Who exactly,
one says to oneself, _was_ my forty-times-great-great-grandfather? A
Roman Legionary? A Viking? A pyramid builder? One of Xenophon's Ten
Thousand? Or was he, perhaps (for it is always possible), Alexander the

Thatcher Blitt had a product to sell. And sell he did, for other
reasons that he alone had noted at the beginning. The races of mankind
have twisted and turned with incredible complexity over the years; the
numbers of people have been enormous.

With thirty thousand years in which to work, it was impossible that
there was not, somewhere along the line, a famous ancestor for
everybody. A minor king would often suffice, or even a general in some
forgotten army. And if these direct ancestors were not enough, it was
fairly simple to establish close blood kinship with famous men. The
blood lines of Man, you see, begin with a very few people. In all of
ancient Greece, in the time of Pericles, there were only a few thousand

Seeing all this, Thatcher Blitt became a busy man. It was necessary not
only to patent his idea, but to produce the enormous capital needed
to found a large organization. The cost of the time scanner was at
first prohibitive, but gradually that obstacle was overcome, only for
Thatcher to find that the government for many years prevented him from
using it. Yet Blitt was indomitable. And eventually, after years of
heart-rending waiting, Genealogy, Inc., began operations.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a tremendous success. Within months, the very name of the
company and its taut slogan, "An Ancestor for Everybody," became
household words. There was but one immediate drawback. It soon became
apparent that, without going back very far into the past, it was
sometimes impossible to tell who was really the next father in line.
The mothers were certain, but the fathers were something else again.
This was a ponderable point.

But Blitt refused to be discouraged. He set various electronic
engineers to work on the impasse and a solution was found. An ingenious
device which tested blood electronically through the scanner--based
on the different sine waves of the blood groups--saved the day. That
invention was the last push Genealogy, Inc., was ever to need. It
rolled on to become one of the richest and, for a long while, most
exclusive corporations in the world.

Yet it was still many years before Thatcher Blitt himself had time to
rest. There were patent infringements to be fought, new developments
in the labs to be watched, new ways to be found to make the long and
arduous task of father-tracing easier and more economical. Hence he was
well past sixty when he at last had time to begin considering himself.

He had become by this time a moderately offensive man. Surrounded as
he had been all these years by pomp and luxury, by impressive names
and extraordinary family trees, he had succumbed at last. He became
unbearably name-conscious.

He began by regrouping his friends according to their ancestries. His
infrequent parties were characterized by his almost Parliamentarian
system of seating. No doubt, all this had been in Thatcher Blitt to
begin with--it may well be, in perhaps varying quantities, in all of
us--but it grew with him, prospered with him. Yet in all those years he
never once inspected his own forebears.

You may well ask, was he afraid? One answers, one does not know. But at
any rate, the fact remains that Thatcher Blitt, at the age of 67, was
one of the few rich men in the world who did not know who exactly their
ancestors had been.

       *       *       *       *       *

And so, at last, we come to the day when Thatcher Blitt was sitting
alone in his office, one languid hand draped vacantly over his brow,
listening with deep satisfaction to the hum and click of the enormous
operations which were going on in the building around him.

What moved him that day remains uncertain. Perhaps it was that, from
where he was sitting, he could see row upon row of action pictures of
famous men which had been taken from his time scanners. Or perhaps it
was simply that this profound question had been gnawing at him all
these years, deeper and deeper, and on this day broke out into the

But whatever the reason, at 11:02 that morning, he leaped vitally from
his chair. He summoned Cathcart, his chief assistant, and gave him the
immortal command.

"Cathcart!" he grated, stung to the core of his being. "Who am I?"

Cathcart rushed off to find out.

There followed some of the most taut and fateful days in the brilliant
history of Genealogy, Inc. Father-tracing is, of course, a painstaking
business. But it was not long before word had begun to filter out to
interested people.

The first interesting discovery made was a man called Blott, in
eighteenth century England. (No explanation was ever given for the
name's alteration from Blott to Blitt. Certain snide individuals
took this to mean that the name had been changed as a means to avoid
prosecution, or some such, and immediately began making light remarks
about the Blotts on old Blitt's escutcheon.) This Blott had the
distinction of having been a wineseller of considerable funds.

This reputedly did not sit well with Thatcher Blitt. Merchants, he
snapped, however successful, are not worthy of note. He wanted empire
builders. He wanted, at the very least, a name he had heard about. A
name that appeared in the histories.

His workers furiously scanned back into the past.

Months went by before the next name appeared. In 9th century England,
there was a wandering minstrel named John (last name unprintable) who
achieved considerable notoriety as a ballad singer, before dying an
unnatural death in the boudoir of a lady of high fashion. Although
the details of this man's life were of extreme interest, they did
not impress the old man. He was, on the contrary, rather shaken. A
minstrel. And a rogue to boot.

There were shakeups in Genealogy, Inc. Cathcart was replaced by a man
named Jukes, a highly competent man despite his interesting family
name. Jukes forged ahead full steam past the birth of Christ (no
relation). But he was well into ancient Egypt before the search began
to take on the nature of a crisis.

       *       *       *       *       *

Up until then, there was simply nobody. Or to be more precise, nobody
but _nobodies_. It was incredible, all the laws of chance were against
it, but there was, actually, not a single ancestor of note. And no
way of faking one, for Thatcher Blitt couldn't be fooled by his own
methods. What there was was simply an unending line of peasants,
serfs, an occasional foot soldier or leather worker. Past John the
ballad-singer, there was no one at all worth reporting to the old man.

This situation would not continue, of course. There were so few
families for men to spring from. The entire Gallic nation, for example,
a great section of present-day France, sprang from the family of one
lone man in the north of France in the days before Christ. Every native
Frenchman, therefore, was at least the son of a king. It was impossible
for Thatcher Blitt to be less.

So the hunt went on from day to day, past ancient Greece, past
Jarmo, past the wheel and metals and farming and on even past all
civilization, outward and backward into the cold primordial wastes of
northern Germany.

And still there was nothing. Though Jukes lived in daily fear of losing
his job, there was nothing to do but press on. In Germany, he reduced
Blitt's ancestor to a slovenly little man who was one of only three
men in the entire tribe, or family, one of three in an area which now
contains millions. But Blitt's ancestor, true to form, was simply a
member of the tribe. As was his father before him.

Yet onward it went. Westward back into the French caves, southward
into Spain and across the unrecognizable Mediterranean into a verdant
North Africa, backward in time past even the Cro-Magnons, and yet ever
backward, 30,000 years, 35,000, with old Blitt reduced now practically
to gibbering and still never an exceptional forebear.

There came a time when Jukes had at last, inevitably, to face the old
man. He had scanned back as far as he could. The latest ancestor he had
unearthed for Blitt was a hairy creature who did not walk erect. And
yet, even here, Blitt refused to concede.

"It may be," he howled, "it _must_ be that my ancestor _was_ the first
man to walk erect or light a fire--to do _something_."

It was not until Jukes pointed out that all those things had been
already examined and found hopeless that Blitt finally gave in. Blitt
was a relative, of course, of the first man to stand erect, the man
with the first human brain. But so was everybody else on the face of
the Earth. There was truly nowhere else to explore. What would be found
now would be only the common history of mankind.

Blitt retired to his chambers and refused to be seen.

       *       *       *       *       *

The story went the rounds, as such stories will. And it was then
at last, after 40,000 years of insignificance, that the name of
Blitt found everlasting distinction. The story was picked up, fully
documented, by psychologists and geneticists of the time, and inserted
into textbooks as a profound commentary on the forces of heredity. The
name of Thatcher Blitt in particular has become famous, has persisted
until this day. For he is the only man yet discovered, or ever likely
to be discovered, with this particular distinction.

In 40,000 years of scanner-recorded history, the blood line of Blitt
(or Blott) never once produced an exceptional man.

That record is unsurpassed.

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