Waking Jamal – The Vargr


Artist: Maria Fanning

Waking Jamal will be out on March 25th and I can’t wait to see what people think about Jamal and Rum and Brad and Longwei. Let me tell you a bit about my Vargr.

Vargr Definition:  A Norse word meaning wolf, used by military forces to describe a specific type of warrior. Modified supersoldier with the abilities of superfast reflexes and mental cognition—walking supercomputer.

In Waking Jamal, Lt. Ryan “Rum” Walker has a terabit brain with it’s own T1 line. He sees and analyzes everything. He knows that he is a product of his upbringing and the military’s propaganda and he is determined to affect real change. If you can convince a child that it is okay to be different, that all love is valid and worthy, that super soldiers aren’t monsters…

See here’s the thing. The military already has super soldier teams. Elite fighters that keep us safe and do what is required of them. Rum is disillusioned and jaded and rightfully so.

The other Vargr, Brad Bur,  is a pain in the ass. His strongest skill is provoking people by saying insensitive things. It doesn’t matter that he is completely fictional. He is driven and determined and rude and a lot of fun to write. Special FBI Agent Brad Bur was once half of a Hamra Pair or super soldier team. He lost his lover and partner several years before the book opens and thought he’d never bond and mate with a Hamask again. His success in pulling raging Hamask Longwei from a deadly berserker rage gives our main character Rum Walker the determination to brave the lion’s den and go after his own Hamask, Jamal Zumati.

Brad was always there, even in early stages when I thought the story would be a novella but his story only existed off stage. Even the the bits of ‘research’ I quote or the characters reference throughout the book allowed him to be an absent exposition character. Yet once I wrote his first chapter, on a lark, thinking I would use it for his own book, it took off.
If there is a thin line between brilliance and insanity, both Brad and Rum are teetering on that line and still trying to fight the good fight.


LT. RYAN “Rum” Walker could tell the men and women filing down the aisles of the lecture hall were ensigns, privates, cadets, and seamen. They looked like kids, and they had yet to develop that ramrod posture that came with any service past basic. The uniforms—standard issue and for the most part unadorned—told the same story. But being faced with their youth was another slap to his recently demoted face.

He waited for the creak of wooden seats and the quiet murmurs to settle down. His psych and anthropology training divided the room into Myers-Briggs subtypes and recognized those whose body language showed either confidence or secrets. A human map stretched across the tiered rows of wooden seats. With 78 percent accuracy, he could identify those who would be good wolves or bears, who had lied to get here, and who would kill to stay. Those were the things he should be teaching. How to read people. If they were going to pull him from the field because of insubordination, let him teach candidates actual battle-ready techniques, something useful. Instead they assigned him this propaganda bullshit they spoon-fed all the newbies.

Rum had a lesson planned, just not the one the brass were expecting.

As he stepped into view, someone called out “Attention!” They jumped to their feet, and Rum returned their salute. “As you were.” They settled back in their chairs and he let his voice fill the hall.

“My name is Lieutenant Walker. Welcome to HAVOC.” He then clicked the old-fashioned wireless remote in his palm.

“Hamask and Vargr Operations Center” projected on the forward wall. There were a few murmurs, and a girl in the front row, her hair tightly braided, shifted in her seat. Her eyes weren’t the only ones that gleamed.

“This morning I will give you a brief summary of what we do at HAVOC and answer any general questions you may have. You will then be divided into groups, where you will watch an in-depth video on the Hamrammr initiative, and then you’ll choose.”

He let the silence draw out. “Choose to be activated or… choose the blue pill. Choose to return to your current posting.”

When they got a Hamask to do the morning introduction for potentials, it turned into parlor tricks. Who used which soap that morning? Which male had masturbated in the last twelve hours? They’d have the class write something down at the room’s farthest corner and then the Hamask would read it. The instructor might even tell you the type of fabric you were wearing. Hello! We’re in uniform. The last one even Rum could do.

Rum squinted at them, glaring the murmurs back to quiet. He tilted his head to one side, leaning his right ear toward the noise, and took an audible sniff.

As a Vargr, his enhanced skills didn’t involve his senses, but his abilities were always in play. Hard to turn off, in fact. If there was a sleep mode for his brain, he sure hadn’t found it yet.

Rum clicked the remote again. Pictures of men and women, often in uniform, always in pairs, slid by on the screen. There was official verbiage on what, exactly, he was supposed to say. However, if he were any good at following orders, he wouldn’t be here.

He lowered his voice, knowing the microphones around the stage would carry to the full room just fine. “You are each here because you have potential. Your ASVAB scores and DNA indicate that you could be activated as a Bear or a Wolf. ‘You’re a wizard, Harry.’” He wasn’t surprised when no one laughed. Sometimes it took people a minute to warm up to him. “Half of an elite fighting pair. Pairs like—” He paused the screen on two female doctors. “—Dr. Janis McCarthy and Dr. Lynn Ladd. Hamask McCarthy is a renowned heart surgeon and Vargr Ladd has revolutionized the organ transplant process.”

He liked using this particular example because it showed possible endgames for those who wouldn’t become career military, and because McCarthy and Ladd weren’t in a traditional bonded relationship.

It would have been nice to include a picture of the FBI pair Bur-Longwei, but that suggestion had been nixed pretty damn high up the food chain.

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