Flight & Anchor: A Firebreak Story

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Pub Date Jun 13 2023 | Archive Date Jul 10 2023

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From the world of the breakout novel Firebreak, an exciting new adventure of corporate corruption, hazardous flight, and divided loyalties. After a daring escape from a prison lab, two young, modified soldiers arrive in a freezing-cold city where they have no resources. With time running out, a sinister handler pitting the operatives against each other will be the biggest threat to their mutual survival.

“Kornher-Stace masterfully weaves a deviously creative romp that is somehow both nail-bitingly suspenseful and tenderly cozy, as if the authors of How to Win the Time War had decided to set The Boxcar Children in Snow Crash’s tongue-in-cheek hyper-capitalist dystopia.”
—Maria Dong, author of Liar, Dreamer, Thief

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.


From the world of the breakout novel Firebreak, an exciting new adventure of corporate corruption, hazardous flight, and divided loyalties. After a daring escape from a prison lab, two young...

A Note From the Publisher

Nicole Kornher-Stace is the author of the Norton Award finalist Archivist Wasp and its sequel, Latchkey. Her short fiction has appeared in Uncanny, Clarkesworld, Fantasy Magazine, and many anthologies. Her latest books are the adult SFF thriller Firebreak (Saga Press, 2021) and middle-grade space adventure Jillian Vs Parasite Planet (Tachyon Publications, 2021). She lives in New Paltz, New York, with her family. Kornher-Stace can be found online on Twitter at @wirewalking.

Nicole Kornher-Stace is the author of the Norton Award finalist Archivist Wasp and its sequel, Latchkey. Her short fiction has appeared in Uncanny, Clarkesworld, Fantasy Magazine, and many...

Advance Praise

“Set several years before Firebreak (2021), Kornher-Stace’s newest Firebreak tale follows operatives 06 and 22 as 12-year-olds who have escaped from the Stellaxis headquarters, where they have lived and trained since they were orphaned 4 years earlier in the corporate civil war. Besides discovering that they are woefully unprepared for living on their own as they hide in an abandoned shipping container mere blocks from their home, they also learn of the operatives’ merchandise generated by Stellaxis’ marketing department. Not only are their own statistics blatantly exaggerated, they are also described as artificial humans made to be perfect weapons, which is outrageous given their vague memories of childhood before being ‘rescued’ by Stellaxis. Relying on dumpster diving, selling recycled cans, and some charity, they struggle to feed themselves while the Director, hiding their escape from the company to protect her job, sabotages their lives with nanobots. This distressing yet delightful prequel explains the history between 06 and 22, cementing the reasoning behind their actions in Firebreak and expanding readers’ understanding of the dystopian, corporate-owned world Kornher-Stace has created.”

“In the future, the U.S. has been replaced by two corporations, one of which is Stellaxis, which kidnaps and makes children into supersoldiers. This prequel to Firebreak presents a compelling, heartbreaking origin story for 06 and 22, two of the orphaned, brainwashed, child-soldier superheroes whose plight became the cause célèbre that finally opened a chink in Stellaxis’s carefully constructed, spin-doctored armor. The always rebellious 06 and her stalwart follower 22 run away from their corporate overseers and attempt to blend into the population. It’s a dream that is doomed to fail, but the children are too young to realize it and too selfless to leave each other behind—to a terrible cost, now and in the years to come. Readers who loved Firebreak are going to fall hard for this story, as it adds layers to the buckets of heartbreak, and tears to the already poignant ending of their saga. VERDICT: A terrific entry point into this compelling, corrupt, dystopian world, with a story about the forging of unbreakable bonds set against harrowing adventure, heartrending choices, and traumatic consequences.”
Library Journal

Flight & Anchor is a stunning achievement, one that hauls on the heartstrings as it tickles the brain with the effervescent prose of a Beat master, sure to bust through even the toughest reading slump—though I definitely expect no less from this must-buy author.”
—Maria Dong, author of Liar, Dreamer, Thief

 “Cyborg Boxcar Children vs. the nanomachines, only make it a character study in possibility, heartache, sacrifice, and friendship. Wonderful.”
—Max Gladstone, author of Last Exit

Flight & Anchor: what a feat of adrenaline, friendship, loyalty, fraught circumstance, and fun! Nicole Kornher-Stace deftly—exquisitely—balances the lightness of classic runaway-child books (Boxcar Children! From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler!) with the savagery of survival-in-the-wilderness books (Hatchet! Robinson Crusoe!) to entertaining and harrowing effect. This is a great gateway into the NK-Sverse for the first-time reader (warning: it will make you want to pick up Jillian Vs Parasite Planet—like, now—to get more of a certain nanorobotic AI ‘probe array’ character, who is just the best), and will also be an absolute delight to avid, rabid fans.”
—C. S. E. Cooney, author of Saint Death’s Daughter

“Kornher-Stace finds a perfect balance between human childhood and otherworldliness by making us fall for the myth and propaganda surrounding 06 and 22 while also making them deeply human, if only deep down. A burning ember of humanity in the midst of overwhelming propaganda.”
Bookish Brew’s Reviews

“Nicole Kornher-Stace’s Flight & Anchor pulls you along with the speed of a dystopian freight train. Taking the weaponized childhoods of kids like Ender and blending in a touch of Hanna-style rebellion against the mother organization, Kornher-Stace draws you into a story not only of survival but of calculated surrender to drive the best possible outcome. Flight & Anchor gives us kids who, despite their superpowers and their upbringing’s best efforts, are still believably constrained by their inexperience.  Kornher-Stage continues to be an author to watch, and this latest work is a solid addition.“
—Kimberly Unger, author of Nucleation

“The classic scenario of The Boxcar Children gets a cybernetic anti-corporate upgrade in Nicole Kornher-Stace’s Flight & Anchor. We join twelve-year old super-soldier operatives and inseparable BFFs 06 and 22, years before they’ll inspire a people’s rebellion in Firebreak, centuries before their exploits will influence the post-apocalyptic Archivist Wasp. On the lam from the cruel program that created them, they’re capable of astonishing feats of heroism and destruction, but they’re also lost kids who only have each other to rely on. Kornher-Stace’s nail-biting novella, full of Easter eggs for fans of her expanding universe, keeps us grounded in stakes that are both world-shattering and movingly human.”
—Mike Allen, Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author of Aftermath of an Industrial Accident

5/5 stars “Overall, Flight & Anchor is a great addition to the Firebreak universe. If you loved the first novel like I did, you will surely love this one as well. But if this is your first story into the universe, get ready for a quick adventure.”
Enthralled Bookworm

5/5 stars. “This novella does a lot of unexpected heavy lifting for the backstories of 06 and 22 (as seen in Nicole’s other works such as Firebreak) and I'll just say it now: it was a delight.”
Bradley Horner’s Book Reviews

“I’d recommend Flight & Anchor if you like Stranger Things, dystopian world-building, human modification.”
—Potions and Puzzles

Praise for Firebreak

Firebreak is a simmering scream, a pot bucking on a stove after all the water’s boiled away. It’s a fight song in praise of fierce friendship and the strength to endure.”
—Amal El-Mohtar, Hugo and Nebula Award-winning co-author of This is How You Lose the Time War

Firebreak is a klaxon sounding at midnight. It is a howl and a wake-up call. It is a fire that does what literary fires do best: spits rage, radiates the warmth of compassion, and fans the flame of revolution.”
—C. S. E. Cooney, World Fantasy Award-winning author of Bone Swans: Stories

“A steadfast heroine stands up against a tyrannical corporation in this vivid work of dystopian sci-fi. . . . The effortlessly detailed worldbuilding is captivating. Kornher-Stace leads readers through the cinematic landscape of her imagined future with an expert hand.”
Publishers Weekly

“Set several years before Firebreak (2021), Kornher-Stace’s newest Firebreak tale follows operatives 06 and 22 as 12-year-olds who have escaped from the Stellaxis headquarters, where they have lived...

Marketing Plan

  • Promotion targeting general and science fiction online media, including reviews and interviews to include NPR, the New York Times, Washington Post, New York Review of Science Fiction, Chicago Tribune and the San Francisco Chronicle
  • Planned book giveaways on Goodreads, SF Signal, and other online outlets
  • Cover reveal and book launch event
  • Print and digital ARC distribution via Goodreads, NetGalley, and Edelweiss+
  • Instagram and blog tour, Reddit AMA, and social media campaign by the publisher and author
  • Promotion targeting general and science fiction online media, including reviews and interviews to include NPR, the New York Times, Washington Post, New York Review of Science Fiction, Chicago Tribune...

Available Editions

EDITION Paperback
ISBN 9781616963927
PRICE $16.95 (USD)

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Average rating from 27 members

Featured Reviews

I had enjoyed Firebreak and was excited to read this book as I enjoyed Firebreak a lot. It does what I was hoping for and worked well from the previous book. I enjoyed the concept and getting back to this world, the characters worked well and I enjoyed how they were written. Nicole Kornher-Stace has a great writing style that I was hooked on from the first book. I can't wait to read more from Nicole Kornher-Stace.

"Covering for them while they are looked for at lessons and mealtimes. Standing there in all the imperiousness she can marshal and saying: they misbehaved; they are being disciplined. As soon as I am satisfied in their good behavior, they will return. Worse: they leave her with a quandary. She knows they left their weapons behind. Hasn’t found them yet—she’s been poking around for them as discreetly as humanly possible, but so far, no dice—but she’s been going back."

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I was so happy to be able to read Flight&Anchor in an advanced copy!

06 and 22 run away from Stellaxis. The Director thinks they’ll come back soon –she’s keeping an eye on them, but while she’s waiting for them to come back (because sending someone to die while retrieving them is not an option), both children prove they are way more resourceful tan she imagined.
I loved reading again about 22. After Firebreak I felt I needed to know more about him, and this books doesn’t dissapoint: its pace is slower so it can focus in character development, getting to know their past and learn about their present. Fligt&Anchor is a very different book than Firebreak –it has a lot less action scenes and characters, and less political content (if you can skip that the main characters are literally child soldiers and they are kidnapped). Instead, we have plenty of time with two characters we wanted to know more of, and a couple of new ones as a gift.

If I have to summarize the book, it doesn’t feel like a lot of things happened. The argument itself is simple, and it doesn’t have big plot twists or surprises. But I didn’t feel it was boring or repetitive. There aren’t a lot of things going on, but we keep knowing new things about the characters and the world all the time –and that what we wanted.
In Firebreak I fell in love with 22, but after this book I’m loving 06 as well. And I hate Stellaxis even more.
I really liked this book. If you also wanted to know better the chacters and about their past, read it.

TW: calories counting and food analizing. I haven’t seen anyone mentioning this, but please be aware that this is something that happens a couple of times.

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Nicole Kornher-Stace is an author whose work I will always immediately devour - their deeply fascinating characters, absolutely gut-punching prose, and delightfully twisty plots are exactly what I look for and relish in fiction. Flight & Anchor is probably the best novella I've ever read, and certainly my favorite - and while it helps that I already love 06 and 22 (and SABRINA!!!) with my whole heart and soul, this story would be riveting and heartbreaking and immersive and satisfying regardless of my familiarity with this author's brilliantly interwoven universe of "standalones." I am so glad to have received an arc of this book, and I will promote their works effusively wherever I am given the opportunity to. If you love high-concept sci-fi rooted in the mundane, ride-or-die nonsibling friendships, snarky AIs, and unapologetically anticapitalist themes, this (and Nicole's entire body of work) is very very much for you.

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Flight & Anchor by Nicole Kornher-Stace
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This novella does a lot of unexpected heavy lifting for the backstories of 06 and 22 (as seen in Nicole's other works such as Firebreak) and I'll just say it now: it was a delight.

Young kids getting into trouble, as only young kids who can outfight a tank can, all within a comfortable setting that is much like our own world of ultimate disposability, dealing with massive amounts of brainwashing, nasty authority figures, poverty, and a great heaping wallop of glorious friendship.

The novella stands just fine on its own two feet but it really dovetail's nicely with the expanded world. I'm very happy.

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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.

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Flight & Anchor is a prequel to Firebreak, giving readers an insight into SecOps operatives 06 and 22. It was fun to revisit side characters as protagonists and I really enjoyed the insights on the Director as well. 06 is known to be a rebel and 22 is her partner. Taken away from their families at a young age, both have been genetically modified. But they do not want the life of soldiers and at twelve years of age, they decide to run away and seek freedom.

This story has its moments of reflection, darkness, insight, terror, camaraderie and quirkiness. I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed being back in this world. The relationship between 06 and 22 and how the Director underestimated 22 was intriguing and kept me going. In the Author’s note, I discovered easter eggs for other series and that piqued my interest about that book too. The world of Flight & Anchor is a technologically advanced dystopia and I hadn’t expected that there would be decommissioned secret weapons that existed long before Stellaxis did. There is so much room in this world to grow and I will be waiting for future books, whether they are set in the past or present.

Many thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy through NetGalley for an honest review.

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This story feels like what it is - a side story about characters from a greater dystopia, technologically-augmented child “operatives” who have known no other life than seclusion and constant training. Busting out of the corporate-imposed prison and encountering the bigger world for the first time reveals the strengths and limitations of the two and their partnership.

I found this story captivating. Loved the technology and the glimpses of the world, through the eyes of 06 and 22. I want more of their story and the bigger picture about this world!

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