Mission: Quatrains

Mission: Quatrains

By Craig Hogan


In 1503 the most famous and arguably the most accurate prophet of the ages was born. His name, Michele de Nostradame, better known today as Nostradamus. He was born to a converted Christian family in France. His up bringing included lessons in Catholicism, Judaism, classical works, and science. He was formally educated in medicine at Montpelier. Without the fame aroused by his prophecies, Nostradamus would have gone down in history as a most noteworthy physician. During the middle of the sixteenth century, it is recorded that Nostradamus alone was able to conjure a cure to the "plague" that devastated Europe. That in itself would be enough to get his name in the history books, but it was his prophecies that have made him the phenomenon we have come to know as Nostradamus.

As the ability to see into the future grew in the prophet physician, he became convinced that the information should be recorded. Nostradamus set down these prophecies in the form of his work known as the "Centuries". Each century was made up of 100 verses. Each verse was known as a quatrain and contained four or five lines of text. Nostradamus completed approximately 1000 quatrains making up the "Centuries". Many scholars have interpreted these quatrains over the years, and many different conclusions have been drawn from them.

The quatrains must be interpreted or deciphered because of Nostradamus' "encoding". One must keep in mind that the sixteenth century was a very superstitious time. The Church, rather than science or even logic was in general control of the minds of the people. Nostradamus himself was devoutly religious. Therein lies his fear of being branded a heretic or even a lunatic. Rather than being placed on trial for his prophecies, Nostradamus chose to twist the names of the people in the prophecies, or use Latin and Greek words to confuse the average reader. He used astrological terms, and ancient references to times, places and dates. While it may seem confusing before the event occurred, many claim to understand the prophecies after the fact. In any event, what we are able to understand about the "Centuries" today is mere interpretation, and speculation of what they might mean. There is, however, a very interesting quatrain that speaks of a twenty seven year war, at the end of which peace and harmony reign over the earth and all its people...

                        L'antechrist trois bien tost anniehilez,                       
                        Vingt & sept ans sang durera sa guerre.
                        Les heretiques mortz, captifs, exilez. 
                        Sang corps humain eua rougi gresler terre.    

                        The antichrist very soon annihilates the three, 
                        twenty seven years his war will last.   
                        The unbelievers are dead, captive, exiled;
                        with blood, human bodies, water and red hail covering the earth.

"That looks good", I thought. I adjusted the traditional headdress while looking in the mirror - "Not bad at all". I really didn't know what to expect with this new assignment. Major Jonathan Cornelius Scaliger - First Time Traveller. Well, it wasn't me that volunteered, but in this man's army I guess you do as you are told. The "think tank" boys had come up with a way to move through time. "Gotta hand it to ole' merican injun-newity" - travel through time! Only backwards though, something about unknown factors, not enough data - those "T.T." boys would know. I, on the other hand, was the guinea pig and like all guinea pigs had no idea what I was getting into.

"You ready, boy" the colonel shouted from behind the door?

"Come on in, Jim", I called. Jim and I had gone through training and just about every other experience together. Yet, he had advanced further than I had. Maybe it was that smooth tone he used on all the brass' wives. They all loved him. Tall, straight, brown, and intelligent. I don't think I could follow through with this, if not for him.

"Just think of it" he cackled, "you're going to move through time. I only wish it were me", he said in that voice I knew he used on new recruits and the "ladies".

"Bullshit" I said, "you're as scared as I am." Well, maybe not, but I know he wouldn't do it.

"That get-up looks real good" said Jim. I didn't respond, but agreed. "They're ready to brief you", he said, this was the moment I feared the most, what was I to do?

The conference room, like all conference rooms, was large, cool and wooden. Chairs, tables, walls - it was like a tradition, can't have a conference without wood. I just wish I could get this over with as soon as possible. General Grant, what a moniker, was seated at the far end, where else, of the table.

"Sit down" he commanded in that general tone we were all used to hearing, but not believing. "As you gentleman know we now have the ability to move through time. As you may also know, that capability extends only to the past. We can calculate exact times, places, people and events in the past provided we have the history. But the future, as it has always been, remains an elusive prize." The general took a puff of his stogie and continued, "From the evidence we have, only one man ever, has penetrated the future with any accuracy. That man, gentleman, is Nostradamus. High Command believes that he accurately foresaw the future. They are willing to bet that his description of a 27 year war at the turn of a century is indeed our century." "Jonny", he liked to call me that, I didn't. "You're going to return to the age of Nostradamus; in that time you must acquire the quatrains of prophecy intact and before encoding. We have to know what happens in this 27 year war. If we don't it may be our ass on the line, you got that Jonny!" I knew he was serious when his candor broke down.

"It seems logical" I blurted.

Jim broke in "General how do we know that this particular prophecy is true, and if we get the truth that we can do anything about it". Cooler heads always prevail, maybe I could get out of this after all I thought.

"We don't. And that's all the more reason to find out. With this new technology, we have a capability that heretofore was only a dream, and it must be the Alliance that has the information - the knowledge." With that the general closed his files and looked us in the eyes. "Any more questions?" we knew better than to ask. His tone softened "You know I wouldn't ask you to do anything that I felt was dangerous, and you are a long lost relative of Nostradamus' buddy Scaliger."

"I'm not sure they were exactly buddies" I retorted.

"Now see that's why we picked you, that clear head of yours. "You're the best, Jonny, we know we can count on you." The general made leaving noises, and we knew the meeting was over. "Report to Time(Zero) at 08:00 hours, major" was his last statement, or was it a command?

Jim said nothing, just placed his hand on my shoulder as we worked our way back to barracks. As I opened the door, Jim tried to articulate his wishes of well-being.

I said "Forget it, we'll drink it off when I get back." Inside I felt sick.

All night I couldn't sleep, tossing, turning, finally sitting up, hoping dawn or sleep would take me from this tension. The only thing relieving the tension was the apprehension and fear as I walked the long corridor to Time(Zero). Time(Zero) was a room that contained the time travel equipment. No one on base, or in the media had been allowed there. I had no idea what could be in there, intensifying my fear. The usual white robes were waiting as I made my way to the center of the room. Lights, machinery, computers, as expected but, medical equipment? I was asked to lay down on the table in the middle of the room. One of the white robes stuck a syringe in my right arm. Soon I was sleeping, or unaware of reality anyway. It seemed to me that the lights flickered, odd sounds, a strange whirling, drowsy, an exotic feeling simmered in my head and the lights went low...


HMMM! I smelled the fresh flowers and the dew. Blue Sky, no vapors, my head was swimming. Lay back don't try to get up. I tried anyway. As I lay on my back regaining my strength, I realized how quiet it was, no sound but the wind. Oh! there was a bird's call, I hadn't heard it so quiet since I was a boy, before the alliance, before the wars, before mom and dad died, before everything. Is this where I was? In a time before everything. I sat up, confused, dazed, and comfortable - safe. It seemed as though I was the only one alive in the beautiful meadow. Just the clouds, the blue, the smell, and the golden grain. Grain? I remembered no grain in Time(Zero) - it worked! I'm there, here, the past, 1555, Salon, France - home of Nostradamus.

The brains that thought this project up, assumed Nostradamus had, I mean has, created the quatrains in question by this time. I have the appropriate attire and according to calculations I should be about 2 miles from the home of the seer. As I walked down the soft dirt road, I sketched out the details of the plan in my head. First, meet some townies and make sure this is the correct time and place, then get precise directions, whereabouts and activities concerning the house of Nostradame. And then, meet the man himself. I was actually pretty nervous about meeting him. After all, if this man did know the future, did he or could he know about my future? I thought I might at least inquire.

The first person I met on the way to the center of the town was a woman, middle-aged, a peasant. The type with full red cheeks and an expression like Santa Claus during the holidays.

"Bon Jour, Monsieur", she mumbled.

"Good Day to you" I said in my practiced, Renaissance French. "Could you kindly direct me to the house de Nostradame?"

"Nostradamus!" she yelped, "Oui Monsieur, follow this road to the end and turn right, the house de Nostradame is upon the hill."

As I strode towards town, I couldn't help notice how much this countryside was like a Maryland or Virginia countryside. Green meadows, rolling hills, a tree here and there. How peaceful life seems here. This time travelling could become a habit if it's all like this. The town grew nearer, quaint cottages, simple buildings, a small square, it looked like a postcard.

Ah, here we go, I entered the first tavern I saw - good place for catching the latest gossip. Dark, odorous and simple, this was no "Blankenship's" but it did have ale, brandy and excellent wines; I ordered one. A cabernet I think, quite tasty. As I sipped my drink I perked an ear towards the local conversation.

"Queer one 'e is" said one crusty old gent.

His crony replied with "Aye, but 'e keeps the visitors and the cash a-comin'".

"Shh, there's one now" I heard.

"Good Day gentleman, may I buy you a drink." it's best to ply these people before the inquisition. A round of cheer went through the house. As we downed the second round, on me, I asked of Michel de Nostradame. And they supplied me with everything I needed.

These people must make a habit of tracking his movements, whereabouts and personal life. I had times, dates, activities, names; any information the best agent would need to complete an assignment. With this I said "I bid you adieu, gentleman" and with a tip of my hat left the place feeling rather light-headed and full of myself.

Apparently, Monsieur Nostradamus was unavailable until the late hours of the evening, one reason he frightened the locals I presume. I had to wait until dark to make my move. As dusk settled on the quiet scene I made my way to the hill that supported the house de Nostradame. According to my information the servants left his attendance about 20:30. By 21:00 I was going to be in that study retrieving the quatrains.

Soon the only light burning in the house was at the very top in a turret I surmised to be the study. I carefully and stealthily made my way through the yard and then to the house. I tried to pick the lock, but there was none, the door simply opened! I crept up the stairs as quietly as the proverbial mouse. Just down this corridor and I'm in the study. Nerves were starting to bristle, the quiet was starting to make me self- conscious. As I entered the study I saw a darkened figure at the window.

Complete with sorcerer's hat and robe, he turned. "I've been expecting you." said the prophet Michel de Nostradame.

"Then it's true!. You can see through time." and believe me this was as much of a shock to me as anyone.

"God grants through his will the knowledge of the ages, I have only been privvy to those plans."

I thought that a modest statement considering the personage I was addressing.

"You have come for the knowledge that I have been privileged. And I can fathom your desire. You, who know nothing of my world and I of yours. Yet, would you condemn the whole human race to it's doom? For I have seen it's exultation in the vistas laid before me. But, if thou wouldst", he seemed to be changing dialect as I listened - intently, "change the course of human events wouldst thou expect not different results".

Quite a point, but my job was on the line, and I did have to return to my time. "Listen, if you know who I am , then you know what I want - I'm prepared to take action if needed." I bluffed.

"The waves of time can only be swayed by the true heart and courage of men. And thou my long distant friend, must use thy free choice to divine the moral correctness of thy "mission", is it called?" he said. "The information thou seekest is as at hand. But, remember 'tis thy choice" the prophet said. He turned to face the window and removed his eyes from mine.

Nerves were teeming at this point. I wanted to run, but I wanted to stay and talk to him. He who seemed to know of the future, our future, my future. "Before I go, I must ask you a question" I pleaded.

"Thou must ask thy question tho' it be known e'en before thou arrived." I heard him say with astonishment.

"What about my life?" I questioned.

"Thou shalt be renowned. For a deed not accomplished, thou shalt be renowned. The exultation of men will ring hollow in thy heart. Thou shall be amoungst the highest and the lowest among men." with this he simply stared into the stars.

From the vantage point of Nostradamus' study I could see Orion, the Hunter, and many other constellations. As I grabbed the needed quatrains, I took one last look at the prophet and his stars. With this kind of solitude and contemplation its no wonder he had time to think about the future. Me, I had to get back to the "landing" area and prepare for the time-shift.

Moving through the countryside was relatively simple. These were good Christians, in bed and asleep soon after dark. Using my auto-compass I swiftly found the point I entered this world. Apparently calculations required that one return to the exact location of entry into the past, so that return to Time(Zero) would be made possible by the think tank boys. All I had to do was use the syrette with the chemical needed to induce the transfer. As I watched the beautiful stars on the beautiful clear night in 16th century France, all consciousness went dim...


Bright Lights, Machinery, Sounds... Time(Zero), it must be. After an 18 hour slumber I awoke to the disinfected world of a hospital bed. From here I could see the video, the window and Jim. "Jim!" I startled.

"You made it, boy!" was all he could get out of his mouth.

I lay back, energy fading. "Did they get the quatrains?", I asked with my last breath for the moment.

"Jonny, I'm gonna let the General fill you in." Jim replied.

General Grant was there too, I hadn't noticed him at first. "Jonny, my boy, you did it. You are the first time traveller." he chortled.

"The quatrains" I begged.

"Bit of Bad Luck I'm afraid" he went on, "The think tank boys figure the quatrains never existed in this time, and by moving them into this time -they simply disintegrated." He almost sounded apologetic. "Now you can be sure that we're going to test this theory thoroughly, but you just get some rest now."

I lay back on the pillow of the bed and wondered if the Master of the house of Nostradame was right.

Copyright 1997 by Craig Hogan

About the Author: "I have many stories completed, and an entire boatload of story outlines and ideas. Assuming this becomes a positive experience I can supply you with stories every month. In addition I do have my own web page where I have placed my stories and music that I write. I have written and recorded over 80 songs. You can listen to some of them or download them at: http://www.bayserve.net/~craigh"

You can E-mail Craig at: Craigh@bayserve.net or visit his Webpage at: http://www.bayserve.net/~craigh

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