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Bleak Border Base

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"Welcome to Tau Volantis!" Haha! But seriously, where's the beaches on the brochure?
LTJG. Dr. Julian Bashir: This'll be perfect. Real frontier medicine.
Maj. Kira Nerys: "Frontier medicine"?
Bashir: Major, I had my choice of any job in the fleet. ... I didn't want some cushy job or a research grant. I wanted this. The farthest reaches of the galaxy. One of the most remote outposts available. This is where the adventure is. This is where heroes are made. Right here, in the wilderness.
Kira: This "wilderness" is my home.
Bashir: Well, I, I, I didn't mean—
Kira: (sarcastically) The Cardassians left behind a lot of injured people, Doctor. You can make yourself useful by bringing your Federation medicine to the natives. Oh, you'll find them a friendly, simple folk.

This remote outpost is the place you will be sent when you are Reassigned to Antarctica. It is a lonely, crumbling facility in a bleak wilderness at the edge of the Vestigial Empire, with dated, poorly maintained equipment, irregular resupplying, and little or no communication with the main unit. The base is filled with misfits and reprobates, a veritable Garrison Of Thieves And Whores but you are all that stands against the ravages of the Barbarian Tribe on the other side of the border.

The bleak base is bad when the hero arrives. To ramp up the tension, expect some further challenges: communications being cut off, power failure, or an epic storm (wind, rain, snow, solar flares, etc, as appropriate to the setting). Now that our ragtag band of defenders has even more disadvantages, they face the big challenge: a horde of enemies/aliens/monsters.

Since there's no realistic way to call for help from headquarters in time, expect a blood-spattered Last Stand, in which our hero tells the misfits "It Has Been an Honor" and leads one last charge into the horde with guns blazing. The Cavalry may show up in time to save a few defenders, but this is unlikely.

Related to Citadel City. The main difference is that it is more obscure, and is usually a military or similar station rather than being a whole city. Typical of a Western when our hero is assigned to a remote fort in hostile territory. In military stories, it is a small outpost in an isolated region that is menaced by enemy forces. In Space Opera it might be a whole desolate planet. Compare Eerie Arctic Research Station, a civilian equivalent.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Fort Briggs in Fullmetal Alchemist, a lonely outpost in the northern mountains that is the first line of defense against the invading forces of the Northern country of Drachma.
  • Patlabor
    • SV2's Headquarters is portrayed this way, since it's located outside of city limits, on reclaimed land that's practically in the middle of nowhere. Making it a thankless and unenviable position to be assigned to.
    • It's worse in the manga version, where their HQ is actually an abandoned factory that sits on what used to be a landfill.

    Fan Works 
  • One of the viewpoints in the Star Trek Online fic Red Fire, Red Planet is the Starfleet crew of an early warning post on the edge of the Sol system that most days has little to do but log incoming ships and play cards. That is until a Klingon fleet launches a deep-strike into the system.
  • In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, this happens to an incompetent and utterly undiplomatic diplomat, who Lord Vetinari cannot sack as he is a Selachii and the old noble families have privileges. Sir Michaelmas Selachii is sent to a succession of remote out-of-the-way postings in underfunded consulates in places where nothing of importance is there for him to wreck or provoke Incidents in. He is first sent to Howondaland where he provokes his hosts with cutting references about their version of the Code 419 Scam. He is then posted to the Uberwaldean backwater of Muning where he completely fails to spot a war brewing that had Disc-wide consequences. After that, in Gap Year Adventures, he becomes Ankh-Morporkian consul in En-el-Sams-La-Reisa - a remote Klatchian desert oasis whose name translates as That Place Where The Sun Shineth Not.note  It is possible Vetinari, by this time, was very pissed off indeed. Elsewhere, a vainglorious and incompetent Army colonel, inexplicably sent to a sensitive jungle frontier where he fails to spot another war brewing, is shunted sideways and appointed Military Attaché to Aceria - a Discworld country otherwise known as the Great Outdoors, where nothing is likely to happen, ever, in a post-colonial undeveloped prairie populated by the unwanted, tired, huddled, poor, dregs of every other nation.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Armageddon (1998), before the two shuttle crews go to the moon, they stop at the Mir space station to refuel; there, they meet only one guy named Lev. Shortly after, a leak happened and the base is blown to bits, although the crew managed to escape.
  • The plot of Dances with Wolves comes about from the protagonist voluntarily assigning himself to the frontier because he wants to see it before it's civilized. He is assigned to Fort Sedgewick, only to find it abandoned for reasons unknown to him (actually because the soldiers have gotten tired of waiting for reinforcements and supplies and deserted). Because the only people who knew of Dunbar's deployment were Major Fambrough (who killed himself) and Timmons (who died on the way back), no one knew Dunbar was even AT Fort Sedgewick, let alone that he was waiting on a relief force that would never come. So until the Sioux enter the picture, tension builds as Dunbar rebuilds the fort.
  • The movie Fort Apache, in which John Wayne is an officer at an outpost on the Western frontier.
  • And later there was Fort Apache, The Bronx about a police station in the middle of a Wretched Hive.
  • King Arthur (2004): Arthur and his dwindling number of warriors serve at a Roman outpost near Hadrian's Wall (the Roman Empire's Northern most border until the end of Roman occupation in 410) in Britain in 467.
  • The Next Generation -Patlabor- continues to follow the SV2's use of their HQ outside the city since they're now operating on minimal personnel due to the economic recession in the early 2000s.
  • Ravenous (1999) takes place primarily at Fort Spencer, which is an example of this trope; it's in the Sierra Nevada mountains, which at the time the film is set, mark the United States' western frontier. However, as the story goes on, it becomes very clear that the danger comes from the other settlers and not the native people on the other side of the border.
  • Saturn 3: The eponymous agriculture research station starts out staffed only by Adam and Alex, later joined by the psychotic Benson and his Killer Robot Hector. This place is visited by a Mile-Long Ship twice a year, and it has periods of 22 days when all radio signals are blocked by the giant planet. As Major Adam lampshades it: "When they want to give the solar system an enema, Saturn 3 is where they stick the tube."
  • The town where the events of White Sun of the Desert unfold was one before the Revolution. Since then, it was abandoned by the Russian Imperial Army, with only one retired customs officer remaining with his wife in the old compound.
  • Rorke's Drift in Zulu, which was a missionary station in Natal used as a British Army supply depot and hospital.
  • The titular location of Assault on Precinct 13 (both the original 1976 film and its 2005 remake) is a police precinct that is on the most desolate part of the suburbs (Los Angeles in the original, Detroit in the remake) and is being decommissioned, to boot.
  • Played with in the 1999 Turkish film Propaganda. The village along the border of Turkey and Syria was actually pretty pleasant until the arrival of the Villain Protagonist who was tasked with building a border post. The subsequent events turn the village into a decidedly bleaker place.

  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay: Joe Kavalier signs up for the navy when the US enters World War II, but is literally Reassigned to Antarctica, serving as a radio operator at Kelvinator Station, keeping an eye on the minimal German presence in Antarctica. And then all the other base personnel die from a carbon monoxide leak.
  • Part of Beau Geste takes place in Fort Zinderneuf, a French Foreign Legion outpost in North Africa.
  • Played for Laughs in the Detective Joe Sandilands book The Damascened Blade takes place in a British fort on the Afghan border in the 1920s. The presence of motorcars and extended train lines has lately reduced the extremity of loneliness, and the fort is now playing host to a collection of wealthy and high-ranking tourists who want to know what life on the frontier is really like, much to the dismay of the garrison.
  • In the Discworld story Soul Music, Death spends a short time in a parody of the outpost from Beau Geste. By the time Albert shows up, it's been attacked at least once and likely won't be around much longer.
  • In The Eagle of the Ninth, Marcus's initial posting is to the remote Roman outpost at Isca Dumnoniorum (modern-day Exeter), the first line of defence against the unconquered tribes of South-West Britain.
  • Honor Harrington is sent to a place like this in On Basilisk Station. The book notes that this status is due largely to politics: Basilisk is strategically important due to being one of six known termini of the Manticore Wormhole Junction, but the Opposition in the Manticoran Parliament didn't want the Star Kingdom turning imperialist so they forced through laws severely limiting the RMN's presence in the Basilisk System. Then the Opposition-aligned Janacek Admiralty started using it as a dumping ground for COs they didn't like. Honor discovers just how bad things are on the station through her efforts to make the best of a bad situation: not only is there extensive smuggling, the People's Republic of Haven is trying to invent a pretext to conquer the place as a prelude to war against Manticore.
  • Technic History series: Dominick Flandry in A Circus of Hells is assigned to the base on Irumclaw.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire (and its live-action adaptation), the Wall at the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms is a desolate icy land and the Night's Watch manning it is largely composed of criminals and disgraced noblemen. By the time of the first novel, their main stronghold Castle Black has been reduced to a crumbling ruin and their numbers are a fraction of the strength they need.
  • Star Wars Legends: The New Jedi Order series' first book, Vector Prime, takes place partially on a small, isolated observatory station on the extreme outer edge of the Galaxy Far, Far Away. The place is pretty unimportant until it detects something entering the galaxy (which turns out to be the advance guard of the Yuuzhan Vong invasion).
  • Red Coast in The Three-Body Problem is an isolated research base owned by the Chinese government, built around a massive radio telescope. It is here where Ye Wenjie tries to make contact with Trisolaris...and succeeds.
  • Kyril Island in Vorkosigan Saga is a subversion; it is not an active outpost but a training base and weather observatory. The Cetagandan Ninth Satrapy might have been a villainous version of this toward the end of the Cetagandan War though.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Barney Miller: Several guest detective characters see being transferred to the 12th like this, rather than going to Manhattan South where all the action is.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): The Armistice Station, A small space station, located in an empty sector of space, presumably near or on the Armistice Line the Colonies agreed upon with the Cylons. Only one officer is ever sent there each year, a seemingly frustrating and futile assignment as the Cylons never send a counterpart...until they unexpectedly show up one day.
  • Doctor Who frequently features such locations. There are earthbound examples like the Arctic base in "The Ice Warriors", or the Antarctic base in "The Seeds of Death", as well as dozens of isolated and obscure colony worlds.
  • Some episodes of M*A*S*H involve some of the doctors going to help out at an aid station, whose conditions are invariably worse than the 4077th, which is already at the front (i.e. close enough to the actual fighting to get shelled sometimes)—aid stations are in front of the front.
  • In one episode of NYPD Blue Andy is reassigned to a practically moribund detective squad where there's only one other detective working.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Galadriel finds in the pilot the hidden outpost of Sauron, build centuries ago in the Forodwaith, the extreme North of Middle-earth. The outpost is place of Evil Is Deathly Cold, where Dark Magic was used by Sauron and is inhabited by snow-trolls.
  • RFDS (2021): Broken Hill, New South Wales is a mining town of less than 20,000 people in the middle of nowhere in the fourth least-population-dense country on the planet, and the nearest major hospital is 500 kilometers to the southwest in Adelaide. It's not that bleak, but it's very isolated, with very little infrastructure supporting the surrounding hamlets and farms, compounded by the drought which forced Taylor's family into bankruptcy. City boy Henry can't stand it and decides mid-series he wants to go back to London to live with his father.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Deep Space 9 is this when Sisko et al. initially arrive, being a starbase on the very periphery of the Federation near an old enemy, the Cardassians, and Bajor, a planet still struggling back to its feet from a 50-year occupation. To make matters worse, the Cardassians trashed the place before handing it over to the Federation, and Sisko himself was considering retiring so he wouldn't have to raise his son out there. However, because of the discovery of the wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant, it rapidly gains importance and loses the bleakness.
  • The Outpost: Gallwood Outpost is a fortress guarding a mining camp on the fringes of civilization, lorded over by the Knight Templar-ish Gate Marshal Withers and inhabited by any number of people who would rather not be found, ranging from drug dealers to the Hidden Backup Princess of the kingdom and the conspiracy hoping to return her to her rightful throne. The protagonist, Talon, heads there in the first episode hunting one of the mercenaries who massacred her hometown.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dark Heresy: Port Lokhart certainly isn't an unimpressive naval base, being built into an alien Ring World Planet, but it's located in a backwater sector deemed by many a lost cause anyway, and as a result Battlefleet Askellon is under-strength and staffed by officers the Imperial Navy just wanted to get out of the way.
  • Dungeons & Dragons module OA6 Ronin Challenge. In the Back Story the Shou Lung empire had hundreds of small forts that acted as border outposts in the Shao Mountains. They gave shelter to explorers, couriers, and other travelers are protected against the bandits, wild animals, spirits, and other monsters that roamed the area.
  • Traveller: Imperial starports, military bases, and Scout bases often have this quality when they are close to a rival Empire or resentful planetary inhabitants.

    Video Games 
  • Age of Empires III had a number of these as settings, as the game tended to follow the expanding American frontier west.
  • Demon Hunter: The Return of the Wings: Dubaq's hideout and the Kamael region are said to be located at the edge of Akoron and Kamael has the weakest monsters. It's also where the plot starts.
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind:
    • Ghostgate is the Tribunal Temple stronghold/shrine situated at the only (official) opening in the Ghostfence which surrounds Red Mountain. It is surrounded by a bleak and ashy landscape, while it is quite solemn on the inside, populated only by the Temple's priests, Ordinators, and Buoyant Armigers who are the only line of defense standing between the blighted and Corprus creatures on the inside and the rest of the island. It also serves as the final safe haven at the end of the main quest when you must enter Red Mountain to defeat Dagoth Ur.
    • In the Bloodmoon expansion, Fort Frostmoth is the only Imperial fortress on the frigid island of Solstheim. Most of the soldiers stationed here have been explicitly Reassigned to Antarctica for poor behavior elsewhere.
  • Fallout: New Vegas gives us Camp Forlorn Hope, an NCR military outpost located just south of the Hoover Dam. Not only is the place rather grim, with only tin shacks and sandbags for shelter and cover, but the troops that are there are underequipped, unhealthy, and demoralised. To make matters worse, they're not far away from Caesar's Legion, whose recent attacks have limited their efforts to patrol the area. Fortunately, the Courier can make life for them much easier, partly by taking pressure off the NCR further west which allows them to deploy better troops as reinforcements, and partly by doing in the Legionnaires that are harassing them nearby.
  • Freelancer has a number of these, on the fringes of each House's space and especially in the Edge Worlds. Generally they belong to either police, criminals, or miners.
    Java Station Miner: Lots of people who come here think we are a pretty strange breed. It's true we are loners, but if you want to meet some strange ones you should check out the wackos in Tau-37. Those guys get a rush from knowing that Outcasts might kill them at any time.
  • In Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, the Black Gate has been an outpost of the Kingdom of Gondor for over three thousand years since the defeat of Sauron in the War of the Last Alliance; however, by the time of the main game, it is staffed only by a token presence of Ithilien Rangers including Player Character Talion and his family. The place comes under attack by a resurgent Mordor in the prologue and the guards are slaughtered to a man; Talion only survives because an elven wraith binds with his soul.
  • StarCraft begins on the "fringe worlds" of human space, explicitly considered backwater dumps by inhabitants and core worlders alike (and have the strongest Deep South IN SPACE! vibe).
  • And then StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty did the exact same thing by starting Raynor's Raiders off on some dingy backwater world nobody would've cared about if the Xel'Naga hadn't left one of their artefacts there.
  • Ord Mantell, the starting planet of the Trooper and Smuggler classes in Star Wars: The Old Republic, is presented as such: a far from civilized world, populated mostly by monsters and military bases, but essential to both sides in the ongoing war because of the resources it allows to control. It also was one historically ("Ord" worlds have that name because they began as Republic ordnance/regional depots, though that was over eight millennia before TOR).

  • Freefall features Ice Station Azkzban, located at the South Pole, where its isolation and -40° temperatures make it a very undesirable assignment. It also houses one of the biggest secrets on the planet, Dr. Bowman, creator of the protagonist Florence and the reason 450 million robots are sentient individuals instead of mindless tools.

    Web Original 
  • Blood Gulch in Red vs. Blue comes across this way, with both enemy teams generally cut off from the rest of the Red and Blue factions and indeed most of human civilisation. Instead of actively fighting for their lives, however, both teams spend their time dicking around and swearing at one another in between the unusual shenanigans they get up to. It later turns out that this design was very much deliberate on Project Freelancer's part, allowing them to test out various simulations and equipment out of sight.
  • Shadow of Israphel: Knight_Peculier recounts his backstory to Lewis Brindley and Simon Lane in one of these, or rather on top of one of these buried under several metres of sand. The area in question was at one point a prominent Templar outpost, but gradually fell into decline and was eventually submerged entirely.

    Western Animation 
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: "Rookies" takes place on the barren Rishi moon, home only to a small scanning outpost and the gigantic Rishi eels. Naturally, the Separatists attack it.

    Real Life 
  • Obviously too many to count, but some have special historical significance.
  • Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin was famous as the last guard station between the American and Soviet sections of Berlin during the Cold War, and the first place for refugees to arrive in a Run for the Border. It wasn't quite "lonely" being in a major city, but "bleak" certainly fits since the expected lifespan of anyone stationed there if matters between East and West escalated to an actual shooting war could likely be measured in minutes.
  • The city of Peshawar in modern-day Pakistan has curiously been this for thousands of years on behalf of several different empires. It is a whole city of course, making it a very large version of this, but it is in the mountains far away from cultivated territory and very close to potential raiders.
  • For the US Air and Space Forces, Pituffik Space Base (formerly Thule Air Base), Greenland has this reputation, being the northernmost US military installation in the world. Its primary purpose is early warning in the event of nuclear missiles being launched at the US from Russia.
  • The cities of Reyhanli, Kilis, and Nusaybin in Turkey lie right along the Syrian border and had front-row seats to the horrific Civil War taking place across the border. They all bore the weight of escaping refugees, cross-border rocket attacks, and bombings. The surrounding countrysides remain a security hot spot and witness frequent clashes.
    • Special mention goes to Nusaybin which became even bleaker after fighting between the Turkish army and Kurdish insurgents left about half the city flattened. The town's Syrian twin, Qamishli, has long been a bleak border city itself due to years of neglect and occasional violent rioting but has since gotten better due to becoming the administrative and political center of the semi-autonomous Syrian northeast.
  • A rather interesting one is BRP Sierra Madre. As you might have guessed by the name, the outpost is actually a ship permanently ran aground on a shoal since 1999 to enforce Philippine claims in Spratty Island dispute. China doesn't take too kindly to the outpost's existence and has tried to use their coast guard to prevent resupply, but the Philippines just air drops in supplies and new personnel (fortunately you can at least leave by boat).
  • Rockall is an isolated island a long way out in the Atlantic. It is claimed by several countries, not for the barren stony outcrop itself, but because whoever gets it will have territorial rights over a large area of profitable seabed. Currently, it is in British ownership, and as the page image to Reassigned to Antarctica informs you, the British periodically (temporarily) garrison it just to make a PR point.
  • Iran has several, much to the dismay of any young man who failed to avoid getting conscripted. While a lot of inland bases are infamously harsh (like the Ajab Shir installment, known for its isolated location and freezing conditions), the ridiculously long borders with the THREE failing states are the most dangerous places to be. Border patrolmen get attacked by insurgents and opium cartels very often, with hostage situations happening almost every year.