Vanden came back a hero, nobody had flown that high into upper space before. Even as he negotiated the precarious landing he was planning his next take off; he had to discover more, find out if his amazing theory was correct. But would the high council even believe him, let alone invest in another skyblast and a three person expedition. First he must address The Academy, his safe return did not in itself prove anything and it would take a while for his team of experts to interpret the telescopic recordings.
The ageing president spoke to the learned gathering first. ‘The fact that Space Chief Marshall Vanden has returned is proof indeed that upper space is finite, otherwise he would surely have been propelled further and further into infinity, never to return.’
‘Your honour,’ the vice president stood and bowed, a tight smile on her face ‘our rocketgalleons are programmed for reversal after 35% of crew sustainable capacity has been used, but the magnetron telescope saw far yonder with no sign of an ending.’ She nodded to Vanden to speak before the president could utter more foolish words.
‘Your honour, our ancestors thought our earth was finite, they feared to climb any mountain lest they topple over the other side into hell. Then a few brave women climbed the highest peak and what was on the other side, but more land stretching endlessly in every direction. Each generation has travelled, hunting, roaming, farming, multiplying so that their children in turn set forth to find new land. There is always new land and always will be, we are not a table top held up by a giant, but an infinite earth that I saw from upper space; our land has no edges, no corners, no curves, just beautiful undulations and landscapes of every hue. And what of the depth? How far down have we mined for the precious elements we need for our cities and our galleons? If it were possible I believe we could excavate down and down and never reach rock bottom. And so it is with upper space, infinite in height as the earth is infinite in depth.’
There was a cheer from at least half the gathered assembly and a young man stood up. ‘Should not the mind of Academecians be as infinite as creation? How high must be the mega stars that give us heat and light. Vanden has not even approached them, otherwise his rocketgalleon would have melted.’
Another voice called out cynically ‘Stars, did you count how many or shall you tell us there is an infinite number?’
‘They are infinite, but stars are not all that is beyond our reach. The magnetron detected reflected light from orbs, orbs of rock and land; I believe above us is a universe so different that the impossible is possible. Round earths with an atmosphere surrounding them, the same as the mighty layer of air that blankets us and perhaps…’
No one was agreeing now, everyone was on their feet exclaiming, gesticulating, but Vanden was determined to finish what he had to say.
‘…perhaps on these round earths there might be life, even intelligent life like us.’
Now there was uproar, the vice president pleaded for silence, it behove the dignity of The Academy to let the president answer.
‘Now we know for sure that the mind of our poor brother, our esteemed Space Chief Marshall, has sadly been affected and if he is not insane he surely speaks blasphemy. How could there be life on a ball of earth… people? They would surely fall off. There is but one earth that has no end, one body of air we breath and high above us the stars that warm us and nothing else.’