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Inky & John The Saga Continues

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The Briefing

We parked our car in the Space Center lot. All the way to Houston Inky hardly said a word. I knew he was worried and it was not going to be easy for me, either. We got out of the Jeep and started up the walkway to the main entrance. The door opened and a young lady stepped out.

"It's Brandi!" Inky exclaimed. She waved and came to meet us. "Brandi! It's good to see you!" We shook hands and then I picked Inky up so that he could have proper eye contact when he greeted Brandi (He insists on this), then we turned and entered the building. Brandi led us down a long hall to the conference room. Inky asked her to wait a moment before opening the door. "John, promise me you'll be with me all the time and listen to what the trainers say. I'll need your help."

I had to smile. Inky had come to me over a year ago as a very independent little pup who made all his decisions, but this time it's a little different. "Inky, believe me, you are never going to be out of my sight."

We entered the conference room and took our seats. The training team had not arrived yet, so we chatted about what to expect. Brandi reminded us that this was a preliminary briefing so Inky could have a realistic overview of the program. Suddenly the door opened and the trainers entered. We introduced ourselves and Inky told them it was an honor to be invited to meet them. I could see that, even though they had been told about Inky's communication abilities, they were all rather shocked to hear him speak. We discussed current events for a few minutes then the Director of Training suggested we get started. We all sat down and waited as the director opened his notebook.

"To begin, Inky, uh, Ching, is it?"

Inky said "Yes."

"To begin, we all want you to know we look forward to this experience. As you can imagine, it will be a great advantage for us because you can talk. In the past, when we took any member of the animal world with us, we could test their reflexes, take their vital signs, such as heart rate, blood pressure and so on, but we could never ask how they felt. We will want you to keep a voice log of everything you think is important. But I know you're more interested in the training phase, so we'll get right into it. First, we will totally familiarize you with all the equipment. You can't operate the ship, but you should know what's going on."

We sat and listened intently as the director, then, one by one, the other members of the team got up and explained the particular phase of the training he or she would be covering. They discussed weightlessness, shuttle environment, vibration, stress, even 'theory of flight'.

Inky was really excited when he heard that part of his training would include flights in a T-38 Talon fighter. "WOW, John, did you hear that?"

Finally, the director stood up and spoke. "We've put together a video that will graphically cover all the phases of your training. In order to conserve time, both yours and ours, we'd like you and John to take it with you and return to your home. View the film as many times as it takes to be sure you understand it, then call and we'll set up another meeting. We'll answer questions then, and perhaps you can make your decision."

We all got up and shook hands again, and Brandi walked us out to the Jeep. We thanked her for all her help. As we got into the car, the director came out of the building and walked over to see us off. He apologized for the short meeting. "We've been very busy going through our entire security system. That reminds me, Inky, the video is classified material, so no one but you, Libby and John can see it. Please bring it back when you return."

"Yes sir, we'll take very good care of it!" They both waved as we drove away.


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