Flight & Anchor by Nicole Kornher-Stace

Young SecOps operatives 06 and 22 were about to be sent out for their first military engagement. Just a few years earlier, they were child refugees of a corporate civil war; Stellaxis modified them into supersoldiers.

 But 06 and 22 have escaped their prison barracks and entered a city they can barely remember. In the dead of winter, they sleep in an abandoned shipping container and scavenge for resources.

 The Director of the Stellaxis supersoldier program knows that 06 and 22 are gone, where they are, and that she has no easy way of retrieving them. The Director also knows that if she sends anyone after them, there will be a bloodbath--or at least a great deal of bad press.

 But all operatives' days are numbered. 06 and 22 must make a terrible choice: their freedom or each other.

 In Nicole Kornher-Stace's newest addition to her popular Firebreak series, Flight & Anchor is a riveting visit to an all-too-plausible future.

PUBLISHER: Tachyon Publications
YEAR: 2023
LENGTH: 192 pages
AGE:  Adult
GENRE: Science Fiction

Queer Rep Summary: Genderqueer/Nonbinary Secondary Character(s), Ace/Aro Main Character(s).

*I received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review of this book. 

FLIGHT & ANCHOR takes place before the events of FIREBREAK when the operatives are still kids. It is best appreciated after reading FIREBREAK at the very least, as several plot-important events are referenced without quite spoiling them. I was a huge fan of the Boxcar Children series when I was a kid, collecting them for years, owning several dozen by the time I was old enough that I moved on to other stories. FLIGHT & ANCHOR is wonderfully and unabashedly 06 and 22 with their own attempt at being the Boxcar Children. The world of FIREBREAK with its resources controlled by two money-hungry and uncaring corporations literally at war with each other is a very different environment than the setting of that older series, and so this plays out in its own way. If you've never read those books, the salient point is that 06 and 22 run away from a really bad situation, scavenge to try and survive, and end up hiding out in an abandoned boxcar. It's winter, and their initial optimism about their ability to feed themselves turns into dismay at how little money they're able to find and just how much everything costs. They're resourceful, modified to be survivalists and killers, but their conditioning isn't yet complete and sometimes they can remember faint traces of their lives before they were kidnapped by the corporation. The Director is keeping an eye on them, trying to handle this massive screw up without anyone knowing that she's made a mistake. 

The books in this series defy my usual attempts at my sequel check. This gives context for how 06 and 22 end up as the people they are by the time FIREBREAK happens, but it doesn't specifically wrap up anything. The main storyline is both introduced and resolved, but for anyone who's read FIREBREAK the question is much more how it's going to end up the way it always had to, without much doubt as to what the conclusion will be. Even FIREBREAK has that feeling for anyone who has read ARCHIVIST WASP or LATCHKEY. It's not about the destination, it's about the journey, and I could read endless stories of 06 and 22, whatever shape that takes. 

Moderate CW for cursing, dehumanization, stalking, war, child death.

Minor CW for memory loss, kidnapping, confinement, injury detail, terminal illness, medical content, medical trauma, child abuse.

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