First post and apologies for the formatting but I'm on mobile.

I wish I could remember the name of this short story, because it is unbelievably emotionally strong. SciFi. Humans had fought a war with an alien race and it ended without resolution. The enemy just pulled back. But it had been a near thing so a number of warning stations were set up in deep space so that humanity would have a warning. They were heavily armed and mostly automated with just a couple of men manning them.
The plan was that if they detected the enemy, they'd send the warning and a ship would evacuate them. In this story, on one station, one of the crew had a fall and died, leaving one man alone. After a long time alone, he detected the advancing enemy. They were coming in large numbers and faster than expected. The assault was going to hit them before they could be evacuated and they were given orders to fight and hold out for as long as they could, but there could be no relief as the ships would be dealing the enemy that got through.

It's been a long time since I read this, but this soldier had grown afraid that his station was haunted. He would feel a presence, a movement in the corner of his eye. And as the enemy approached, and he got the word that he was to fight and die, he felt despair that he would die alone. At that moment, the ghosts he'd been afraid of became more visible and concrete. A soldier in helmet with a rifle. A Spartan with shield and spear. A dozen or more. And the Spartan turned to him and said, "Brother, you do not stand alone. We are here, your brothers who also stood and died, holding the line against an enemy who was overwhelming. We stand with you, and when your time comes and you fall, you will join us...to stand with the next soldier who holds the line...not alone.

  • 4
    Whatever the answer to this is, I am going to try and read it. It seems interesting. May 25, 2018 at 17:47
  • @DarthVader: We may have a hit.
    – FuzzyBoots
    May 25, 2018 at 19:37
  • Did the station attendant control four robot spacecraft called hounds or dogs? May 26, 2018 at 13:23

2 Answers 2


Steel Brother by Gordon R. Dickson

A young man is alone running a robotic outpost in space to guard against the alien enemy.

He can't face the fear until after he fails in battle and finally surrenders his mind to the computer memory banks where he discovers that the past (deceased) commander of the post left him a message, the same one every member of the corps leaves for his successor,

"You are not alone, all along the frontier there is one of us standing guard, even if you die, another will take your place".

  • Were there any Spartans?
    – Valorum
    May 26, 2018 at 15:58

I think you might be looking for Beacon 23, by Hugh Howey. The link goes to a short story collection of the five stories, but the details you've posted are I believe all in the first one.

I appear to have read this when I had a Kindle Unlimited subscription that has since expired, so apologies if some of my details are off. Here's the good reads blurb;

For centuries, men and women have manned lighthouses to ensure the safe passage of ships. It is a lonely job, and a thankless one for the most part. Until something goes wrong. Until a ship is in distress.

In the 23rd century, this job has moved into outer space. A network of beacons allows ships to travel across the Milky Way at many times the speed of light. These beacons are built to be robust. They never break down. They never fail.

At least, they aren't supposed to.

The hero of the story is an ex-soldier. He's alone on the Beacon, but I think he's supposed to be. The Beacons exist to make FTL travel safe rather than as a warning system for invasion although that may be a secondary purpose. Certainly there is an alien enemy wandering around with whom humanity seems to be locked in a cold war.

I don't think the soldier believed the station was haunted, rather he thought he was going crazy. Some effect of the beacon caused visions if you spent too much time in the generating chamber, the light room of the lighthouse in effect. However it was certainly necessary to go in there occasionally, and the effect seemed either addictive or possibly just boredom revealing enough that our central character spends a lot of time there, resulting in a lot of odd imaginary both in and outside his head.

What I don't recall is the extremely vivid scene you've painted with the line of soldiers from history.

  • The scene he's describing doesn't appear in Beacon 23
    – Valorum
    May 25, 2018 at 20:17
  • It's not Beacon 23, because the main character is alone from the start in Beacon 23, and there is no extra crewman who has an accident. Also the stations in Beacon 23 are unarmed. And there's no scene of ghostly warriors. May 25, 2018 at 20:48
  • 1
    I appreciate the help so far. It's not Beacon 23, which I only know because I just finished Beacon 23 and that story reminded me of this one and is why I'm here. Similar overall plot for sure.
    – Grinch
    May 25, 2018 at 21:08
  • I'm thinking it came from the Vietnam era of sci-fi, or shortly thereafter, because of the 2 man "listening post" scenario.
    – Grinch
    May 25, 2018 at 21:15
  • I'm with Darth Vader on this - I hope it gets identified cos I wanna read it as well!
    – Danny Mc G
    May 26, 2018 at 2:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.