In Irina’s Cards
The Variant Conspiracy – Book 1
By Christine Hart
Genre: SciFi, Paranormal Romance
Irina Proffer leaves mundane small-town life behind when she experiences visions inspired by a strange deck of tarot cards. To get answers, she travels from her northern British Columbia home to the province’s coastal capital. She quickly discovers a world of fringe genetic science and supernatural mystery.
Working for Innoviro Industries, Irina is drawn in by a powerful first love and compelling, yet dangerous questions about the nature of the company’s business. Meeting other ‘variants’ brings Irina closer and closer to the dark truth about her origins. She finds herself at the heart of two overlapping love triangles as she scrambles to escape her employer’s grip. Before she leaves the city, Irina realizes she has merely scratched the surface of a frightening conspiracy on a global scale.
From Chapter 4:
The restaurant was full and the combined conversations created a loud chatter. Dim candlelight, a few glass chandeliers, and an antique-looking piano in the corner set a romantic atmosphere that sparked another twinge of embarrassment. On the other hand, the abstract and industrial mixed media wall décor had me looking around for art and film students. Aside from a few biker bars, the edgiest hangout I knew of in Prince George was an indie coffee shop – and it had only been open for a few years when I left.
We made our way around and between tables. Everyone in the restaurant looked like an artist or an intellectual. I felt like an ugly duckling in my plain, boring clothes, but I was glad for the first time since starting my new job that not all of the blue dye had gone from my hair. Jonah reached the table and pulled out a chair for me. We sat down and Cole scowled.
“Dude, what’s up with the timeline fail? We’ve been here for like, half an hour,” said Cole.
“Ignore his attitude. I’m Faith,” the girl said as she extended her hand to me and grinned happily. The flickering light glinted off a stud in her nose and a ring in her eyebrow. She wore dark makeup on her eyes and mouth. She had the same coffee brown eyes as Cole. I couldn’t tell if it was her features or the eyeliner and lipstick, but she looked striking in a bold, exotic way. As we shook hands, her gaze shifted over to Jonah.
We looked at our menus in awkward silence, waiting for a server, sipping our water. I sighed and put down my menu. I could feel Cole’s eyes on me as I watched Faith stare at Jonah, the only person still looking at his menu. I gave in and glanced back at Cole briefly with a small smile. This was all heading in the wrong direction. The time for tact expired along with my patience.
“So I take it we’re all mutants here,” I said casually.
Jonah sprayed water onto his menu and coughed. Cole looked at me urgently. Faith’s mouth made a small ‘O’ under her confused frown.
“Seriously, I came here, to Victoria, because I started having visions of this place and I wanted answers. All I’ve gotten is cryptic nonsense. Other than meeting you people, I’ve learned next to nothing. Rubin is all vague double-talk. It’s getting old. I want to know what you all know.”
Jonah looked at me and took a breath as if to say something. He decided against it and looked around our corner of the restaurant. Nobody paid any attention to us. He placed his hand over the droplets of water on his laminated menu. The water coalesced into puddles under his palm. As he concentrated on the small pool, it lifted off the menu and spread into a donut shape. The circle broke and the stream became a spiral, getting thinner and thinner until it evaporated into steam, absorbed into Jonah’s hand.
Faith’s frown turned into a smile as she looked at Jonah. She picked up one of the unlit candles on our table and pinched the wick between her thumb and forefinger. As she released it a flame sprang to life.
“Well, I’m not breaking this table, that’s for damn sure,” said Cole.
“That’s okay. I saw your street-fight with that bouncer when I first got to town,” I said.
Cole rolled his eyes, but I couldn’t worry about his temper. I wanted to keep talking about Innoviro and Ivan. “So, now that we’re making progress, albeit moving into some surreal comic book world, tell me what’s the deal with Innoviro. What the hell does this company really do?” I felt my adrenaline rise.
“I’m not risking my job so you can get a head start on whatever Ivan has in mind for you. You’re acting like there’s something bad going on here. He helps people like us.” Cole looked over at Jonah. “For some of us, being different is actually a health risk.”
“Dude, leave it alone!” said Jonah.
Faith frowned again. “You’ve met Rubin. He’s like a recruiter. He told you that much at least, didn’t he? He works with Ivan to find people like us and help, if they need it.”
“And what if I don’t need help?” I said.
“You may help others. We’re not all different in the same way. Some of us were born this way and some of us were … made,” said Faith.
“Ivan will talk to you about all of this soon enough. We’re really not allowed to and I think the reasons for that will start to be obvious. It’s not the kind of research the government likes. You can’t put this kind of stuff in a job posting and you definitely can’t chat about it at parties.” Jonah looked around the room again.
“So they’re doing tests on people.” I felt the unease in my gut churning faster. “On us.”
The Variant Conspiracy – Book 2
Irina and her renegade variant friends are scrambling to pick up the trail of their former employer, Ivan, and his globally catastrophic scheme. After strategically sharing their story with the media, the group heads south from Vancouver to Seattle hoping to recruit more experienced—and lethal—variants to their cause.
Their attention develops a laser focus on an engineered disaster mere days ahead of them. Ivan is using what staff and resources remain of Innoviro Industries to set off a violent earthquake in San Francisco. While they fight to stop the earthquake, Irina pushes the love of her life Jonah as far away as she can, trying to keep his unstable genetic degradation in check.
Irina’s friends think they’ve seen the worst that Innoviro could bring forth by the time they reach a secret facility in the Mojave Desert. As they near the property, the group uncovers a horror none of them had ever imagined.
From Chapter 10:
I awoke standing on an orange cliff under a purple sky. An unfamiliar canyon wound under the horizon on either side. I looked down to see a river of metallic sludge oozing along the canyon floor. Chunks of debris floated in the sludge. Steam intermittently bubbled here and there. The sky darkened as I watched the river. Lights streaked across the sky, red and white, blinking. Black pellets fell from the lights, exploding in the distance as they hit the ground.
A figure walked through the smoke left by an explosion on the cliff directly opposite from me. While the smoke cleared, Ivan reached the edge of the cliff. His face distorted with a ripple. He reached up with both arms, burying his hands in his hair. His fingertips pulled on his scalp. Ivan’s expression melted. He peeled off his face in a downward motion taking the rest of his body with it. In Ivan’s place stood a red-eyed humanoid reptile with giant curling horns, identical to what I’d seen reflected in the window of Ivan’s apartment.
The horned figure let out a ferocious roar. The ground shook. The landscape shivered until the canyon transformed into a green valley below dry sage-covered hills. Ivan seemed himself again, smiling and tapping his wristwatch, strolling toward me. I shuddered, shaking my head. The green grass floor trembled and a crack opened horizontally between us. Trembling turned to shaking. The crack ripped into the ground in both directions until a canyon separated us.
A hand brushed my cheek. I whirled to find the source of the touch. I found myself lying in bed back in the guest bedroom in Josh’s farm house. I shouted and sat up.
The Variant Conspiracy – Book 3
The end of humanity and an unrecognizable future Earth are now days away. After their first glimpse of the Terra Nova virus, Irina and her variant friends know their former employer’s plans are almost at hand. Their failed attempt to publicize Ivan and Innoviro Industries’ horrific activities has left them utterly reliant on their own wits and weapons.
From Chapter 1:
Faith returned with four glowing green drinks in a cup holder tray. Clear plastic cups, lids, and straws let the liquid inside glow through. It smacked of something that would spawn ninja turtles. “These are the Incinerator’s own toxic spills. They’re just vodka and sprite with a capful of that crap they put in glow sticks. Did you know you can drink that shit?”
Jonah reluctantly took a plastic cup. “Are you sure we should drink it?”
“It’s not going to kill us. No more so than the alcohol.” Ilya picked up a cup and took a long generous pull on his straw.
I took an experimental sip. It tasted like vodka and sprite. There was a mildly synthetic aftertaste, but nothing toxic. I took another, much larger sip. Aha – the warmth I’d been craving since my shower. I might stand a chance of sleeping tonight after all.
Jonah followed my lead and took a slurp on his straw, pausing to let the liquid do its work. He leered at me with a devilish grin and grabbed my hand, pulling me off to the dance floor. His touch radiated energy into me, right through my skin waking up every cell in my body.
He leaned down and kissed me, running his hands through my hair. His powerful grip felt restrained, as though his mind fought to control his body. The intensity surpassed our first night together. After we had spent so long mocked by his unstable mutation, first hurting me and then nearly killing him, we were both finally stronger than ever.
“I can’t help myself. I need to touch you. I don’t ever want to let you go. We’re going to make up for some lost time tonight.” His lips brushed my ear as he spoke. His fingers traced the line of my neck and it sent shivers down my spine. So much for sleep!
Located on BC’s beautiful West Coast, I write from my suburban Burnaby home staring at North Vancouver’s iconic Coast Mountains. I love writing about places and spaces with rich history and visually fascinating elements as a backdrop for the surreal and spectacular.
In addition to my undergraduate degree in writing and literature, my background also includes corporate communications and design. I am a current member of the Federation of BC Writers and SF Canada.
When not writing, I have a habit of breaking stuff and making stuff – in that order – under the guise of my Etsy alter-ego Sleepless Storyteller. I share my eclectic home and lifestyle with my husband, baby daughter and preschool son.