Read this one a long time ago and cannot remember the author, title, etc; but remember a fair bit of the plot.

A man is drummed out of a space patrol service for following protocol, firing upon an Earth ship carrying medical supplies after it refuses to submit to random inspection. He begins investigating the Earth men based on his culture's honor code: he must either prove he was right or commit suicide. He eventually finds out that the Earth men are transporting live human cargo for medical supplies, and are cannibals. After they kidnap a woman Captain who traveled with him, he docks with their ship, but creates a deadman switch; if he does not answer a multiplication question in base 8 within a few seconds, his ship will jump to FTL, and if the Earth ship cannot match, it will be torn apart. The Earth men are smart enough to figure this out, but he manages to trap them with the nearly feral live human cargo.

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    Very good description. I've read that one. Can't remember the author or title but almost surely have a copy around the house. Will look for it. You're sure it was a short story? Could it be novelette or novella length? Can you narrow down "very long ago" to a decade or two? Do you recall if it was in a magazine or an anthology (hardcover or paperback)?
    – user14111
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 7:05
  • Can't place the title just now, but it was reprinted in one of Pournelle's Imperial Stars collections. Commented May 19, 2016 at 14:22
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    @dmckee From reviewing the tables of contents and looking at likely candidates, I believe the story is Blood Bank (1952) by Walter M. Miller, Jr., but I can't find a detailed enough summary to answer. It certainly involves the investigation of a medical relief ship, but beyond that I can't find details.
    – recognizer
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 16:26
  • Imperial Stars as the collection definitely rings a bell.... I'll have to check. Blood Bank might be it, thank you all for the help. Commented May 19, 2016 at 23:55

1 Answer 1


The story is "Blood Bank" a novella by Walter M. Miller Jr. first published in Astounding Science Fiction in 1952, and repeatedly anthologized since.

The story is much as you describe it. The protagonist is Space Commander Eli Roki and the female pilot initially introduces herself as "Daleth Shipping Incorperated".

"Blood Bank: is available in e-book form from Goodreads in at least two compilations

and there was a 2015 collection of the author's works entitled The Dark Benediction which may still be on bookstore shelves if you want a dead-trees copy. (You can also find Pournelle's Imperial Stars anthologies on Amazon if you'll settle for a used copy; there are many good stories re-printed therein.)

As an aside, searching for the story by title is complicated by a Tanya Huff short story of the same title.

  • Thank you all, just joined this site and will be using it much more in the future. That question has been irking me for years. You lot solved it in a day. Commented May 20, 2016 at 0:06
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    Welcome to the site! If you find an answer helpful, you can accept it by clicking on the check mark next to it. Also, you can "upvote" it by clicking on the up button.
    – user14111
    Commented May 20, 2016 at 0:31

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