A watch station differs from a watch fortress in that while watch fortresses are large, relatively rare complexes with a wide range of facilities, watch stations are far more numerous, smaller and less potent Deathwatch outposts.
While Deathwatch watch fortresses are relatively scarce across the galaxy, there are far more of the smaller facilities known as watch stations. These are often no larger than a small escort ship, and some are little more than a rockcrete bunker situated upon a lonely mountain top.
Watch stations are located so as to provide watch against a specific threat, or to guard a particular location. They may have been placed centuries ago, perhaps on the word of a mystic's prophecy or an especially auspicious reading of the Emperor's Tarot, or it may be that a great enemy was defeated at that location and its possible return is being guarded against.
As with the watch fortresses, watch stations can take many forms. A great many are silent sentinels in orbit around a world, while others are lonely towers standing guard over a long-dead battlefield.
Watch stations provide facilities for little more than a single Kill-team and the Battle-Brothers are rarely stationed on one for any great length of time; the resources of the Deathwatch are too scarce for every such station to be permanently staffed.
Instead, watch stations may be used as a staging point should a threat become apparent, and to this end they are always stocked with vast reserves of ammunition, arms and equipment.
While they are not always manned by Battle-Brothers, many watch stations are home to a skeleton crew of sensor-techs and watch-serfs. These live out their entire lives performing their duty, ever watchful for the threat of the alien and ready to call upon their Astartes masters should such an event occur.
Many of these serfs have lived and died and never met a Battle-Brother, yet all are indoctrinated and conditioned into their duty, and their watch never tires.
A great many watch stations are not crewed by Humans at all, but are controlled by Machine Spirits (artificial intelligences). It is only by the blessings of the very highest acolytes of the Machine God that this is possible, for such devices that can be entrusted are rare indeed.
Orbiting many a Dead World might be found, by one who knows to look, a silent mechanical picket, its glass eyes scrutinising the surface far below, its transmitters trained upon distant relay stations. The primary task of any watch station is to gather information and to pass this back to the nearest watch fortress.
The nature of the information may be detailed activity logs compiled by watch-serfs, or at the other extreme, it may be the constant chatter of raw machine language beamed in a never-ending transmission across the void.
The most important watch stations are attended by an Astropath, but others rely instead on regular visits for their reports to be collected.
In many cases, it is not a sudden and disturbing report of alien activity that draws the attention of the Deathwatch, but the absence of any report at all. Standard Deathwatch doctrine dictates that any unexpected silence must be investigated immediately, and a Kill-team dispatched to forestall possible alien attack.
Notable Watch Stations
- Watch Station Andronicus - A watch station in the Canis Salient of the Achilus Crusade.
- Watch Station Arkhas - Watch Station Arkhas is a void station that sits hidden within the gas clouds that wreathe Arkhas VII, the Arkhas System's outermost planet in the Jericho Reach. There, it remains in constant vigil over the worlds now claimed by the Achilus Crusade's Orpheus Salient.
- Watch Station Belarius
- Watch Station Bellom - A watch station in the Canis Salient of the Achilus Crusade.
- Watch Station Castiel - A watch station in the Orpheus Salient of the Achilus Crusade.
- Watch Station Credence - A watch station in the Canis Salient of the Achilus Crusade.
- Watch Station Elkin - Watch Station Elkin is unmanned, its purpose to intercept local communications to analyse signals from nearby star systems for alien threats.
- Watch Station Hlesan Secundus - A watch station in the Acheros Salient of the Achilus Crusade.
- Watch Station Hestus - A watch station in the Canis Salient of the Achilus Crusade.
- Watch Station Iobel - A watch station in the Acheros Salient of the Achilus Crusade.
- Iron Fortress
- Watch Station Midael - A watch station in the Acheros Salient of the Achilus Crusade. Watch Station Midael was ultimately lost to the expansion of the Warp rift known as the Hadex Anomaly.
- Watch Station Oertha - Watch Station Oertha is a watch station in the Canis Salient of the Achilus Crusade that is currently being used as a headquarters for the Imperial and Deathwatch forces contesting a T'au attempt to take the world of Oetha upon which the station stands.
- Watch Station Phaedas - Watch Station Phaedas is a largely automated, mobile watch station deployed in the Jericho Reach. It is essentially a Warp-capable void station, its structures constructed into a small asteroid. Watch Station Phaedas is a relic of ages past. Not a true watch station in the conventional sense, Phaedas is an archaeotech voidcraft that bears no resemblance to any form of starship or void station within Imperial records. If the Adeptus Mechanicus know of Phaedas' provenance, they are not forthcoming about it. Phaedas is largely automated, its myriad machine spirits (artificial intelligences) demonstrating sophistication that rivals those of the most ancient and revered of Titans. The vessel -- if it can be defined as such -- seems to operate based on incredibly complex logic paths, turning augur data into plotted courses, even able to travel short distances through the Warp without a Navigator.
- Picket's Watch - Picket's Watch is a watch station and starfort located close to the Damocles Gulf in the Eastern Fringe. Its forces are held in the fortress of Westkeep and are currently led by Watch Commander Jotunn. Though the Imperium's records do not detail the identity of the "Picket" that the fortress was named after, there is evidence that it was originally constructed in the Age of Strife and was discovered by the Imperium during the Great Crusade. At that time, the Imperial Fists Legion claimed ownership of the star fortress and built the fortress of Westkeep there atop the ancient ruins. The VII Legion used the fortress as an outpost to stand guard over the Damocles Gulf, but their reasons for doing so at that time have been lost to the ages. For millennia afterwards, the fortress was maintained only by servitors until the rise of the T'au Empire. The T'au's expansion soon led them into conflict with the Imperium and the outpost found itself on the front lines of the battles between the rival stellar empires. This led the Deathwatch to lay claim to the station, and they proceeded to heavily modify Westkeep's defences and weaponry. Despite these additions, Picket's Watch's chief defence remains the secrecy of its location. The fortress is readily capable of sustaining no more than three Kill-teams at a time. Nonetheless, it is the current base of operations for the Second Chamber of Watch Fortress Talasa Prime. Three Astartes Strike Cruisers are known to operate out of Picket's Watch. These include the Nemesis, Robidoux and Troilus.
- Watch Station Resgulus - A watch station in the Acheros Salient of the Achilus Crusade.
- Watch Station Skapula - A watch station in the Canis Salient of the Achilus Crusade.
- Watch Station Tryphon - A watch station in the Orpheus Salient of the Achilus Crusade.
- Watch Station Xyston - Watch Station Xyston lies near the Calaphrax Cluster and is charged with ensuring the darkness within that blighted realm does not escape to infest the Imperium. Among its personnel are the Astartes of Kill-team Agathon commanded Veteran Sergeant Dienekas Agathon of the Imperial Fists, and comprised of the Space Wolves Wolf Guard Rurik Warsong, the Flesh Tearers Sanguinary Priest Izraefel, the Celestial Lions Codicier Kaelar, and the Ultramarines Assault Marine Tiberius.
- Deathwatch: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 169, 307-309, 333-335
- Deathwatch: The Achilus Assault (RPG), pp. 44
- Deathwatch: The Jericho Reach (RPG), pp. 16, 72, 131-133
- Deathwatch 1 (Comic Series) (2018) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Deathwatch: Rising Tempest (RPG), pg. 106
- Machine Spirit (Short Story) by Nick Kyme
- The Alien Hunters (Short Story) by Andy Chambers
- Storm of Damocles (Novel) by Justin D. Hill, Ch. 4