Part 3
by Chris
See Author's notes in Part 1

Days 6-7 - Steele in Ethiopia - Arriving High, Landing Low

Steele welcome in Addis Ababa
[Day 6, early morning, GMT + 2 hrs]
Remington and Laura arrive to Addis Ababa early in the morning. Both are dressed in comfortable khaki slacks and shirts, with Laura wearing a loosely wrapped big, solid-colored shawl to protect her sensitive skin. She has found out that many women in Ethiopia wear them to cover their hair at times so she thought it would be an appropriate thing to bring to fit in. They have no problems with immigration, since Mr. Van Kasteren has helped arrange with all the formalities. A local man watches as they pick up their luggage, and he follows them at a distance through customs and the airport building to the exit. As they walk, they do not say much, they are just looking around trying to take in the very unfamiliar atmosphere and to locate Mr. Petrov.
Dressed like the locals in baggy pants and a long solid colored tunic, he is waiting for them across the street, next to a white 4WD, newish-looking vehicle marked with the green emblem of UNEASE. As soon as he sees them he walks up to them, greeting them heartily.
"Friends, welcome to one of the oldest and poorest countries on Mother Earth, a country once claiming its decent from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba." Mike says with pride as he greets them heartily. "Was your journey OK?" he says as he reaches for some of their luggage.
At the same time the man who has followed them through the airport building comes up to stand next to vehicle behind the UNEASE-vehicle, looking as if he's talking casually in a native language to another local man.
"Good morning Mike. The journey went fine, somewhat tiring though. I don't want to sound too filled with prejudice but the national airline is quite good. A surprise actually." Remington responds, putting an arm around Laura's shoulders, as he is relieved from some of the luggage.
"Yes, isn't it?" Mike confirms, then asking Laura slightly teasingly "Nice shawl you're wearing, Mrs. Steele. Trying to blend in?"
"With my fair skin I would never do that but I DID do my cultural homework" Laura responds in a fake indignant tone, then putting on a gentle smile. After having inhaled a few deep breaths, as if trying to get the feel of the place, she comments "A bit thin air, isn't it?"
"Rem acu tetigisti" Mike says with a smile. "Right on the spot there. We are more than 4000 m above sea level. Maybe you wonder what kind of journey that's ahead?"
The Steeles look at him, somewhat taken by his direct question and change of subject. They nod.
"To get to the camp we have to travel north to Dese. That's about 300 km. We have to spend the night there because to get to the camp near Tendaho, we have to descend most of those 4000 m. And that's definitely not an activity recommended after sunset. The roads here in Ethiopia tend to be somewhat bumpy and in places the wildlife can be quite…wild." Mike says, putting on a slightly devious smile.
"I guess we'd better get going then." Remington says as he opens the front door for Laura to sit up front while he gets into the back seat.
They take off. The man who had been talking casually to the other man gives him instructions to call a phone number and leave a short message. He then himself gets in a vehicle parked further down the street and drives off to tail the UNEASE vehicle.
The second man walks back into the airport building and makes a phone call. Obviously leaving a message to an answering service of some kind, he simply says "Overnight stay in Dese."
Steele making conversation
[Day 6, early morning until mid-afternoon, GMT + 2 hrs]
Steele in the woods
Outside Addis Ababa the Steeles notice tree plantations, causing Mike to explain, "Ethiopia has experienced a lot of erosion problems. Another way of recovering land for productive use."
Steele into coffee
As they travel north on the Western Highlands, coffee plantations are a frequent sight along the mountain ridge. Since Mike notices that Remington and Laura look at them, he comments, "Ethiopia grows a lot of coffee in the Highlands…Coffee is the number one export item for Ethiopia...An extremely important source of income for this poor country."
Steele being lucky
Further up the somewhat bumpy road, Laura asks Mike, "The samples we contacted you about. Did you get them sent off?"
"I was VERY lucky there. Maybe some good fortune was working on your behalf…Got hold of the logistics officer of MPH - Medécins pour Humanité, remember? - at the camp…There just happened to be an airlifted transport from the camp early this morning…The samples should be off today…Those express services are quite reliable here as well." Mike explains as he tries to focus on the driving, trying to avoid the many carrier animals on the road.
Steele on wheels
"Isn't this set of wheels too fancy for a country like this? It does make the potholes in the road seem less deep." Remington says, commenting the newness of the vehicle.
"It's just the chassis." Mike explains. "The engine is replaced with an old working horse."
"Because of maintenance reasons, or?" Laura asks.
"Maintenance's one thing. New engines with all those electronic control gadgets don't work down here. No tools, too expensive spare parts, no trained people to do the job." Mike continues.
"And?" Remington urges Mike to continue, as Mike hits a big bump, almost knocking Remington over.
"Oops, very sorry about that." Mike apologizes, then continues explaining, "The fuel is too contaminated for those new engines as well. Often the fuel is stored in painted jerry cans and the paint comes off…Ends up in the fuel tank…Even with a good fuel filter, some of it ends up in the engine…A new engine is…fragile…Makes exhaust gas 'cleaning' a no-no around here." Mike finishes, causing Remington to comment.
"I have this old set of wheels back in California, an Auburn Speedster 1936. A true beauty I may add…To be able to run her after the new laws were passed, I had to put in a catalyst device…I really felt sorry for her before the job was done. It was like performing open heart surgery on the poor thing." Remington states with emotion.
Steele getting a whiff of Dese
[Day 6, mid-afternoon, GMT + 2 hrs, early morning GMT - 8 hrs]
They arrive to Dese, a town with about 100 000 people, still in the highlands, situated on the banks of a river, in the afternoon after about six hours on the road. Mike has made reservations at a good but yet simple hotel by Western standards. Still, in each room there is an iron bed with sheets, pillows and a protective net, a desk and a chair plus an ensuite bathroom with a tub, a sink and a toilet. There is also a small radio as the only 'entertainment'.
After installing themselves in their hotel room, Reminton walks down to the lobby to call home. Since Mildred is staying at their house, he should be able to get either of them at this time of the day, he ponders.
"Katie Steele." Katie answers, still in her bathrobe.
"Good morning. It's Dad. Everything fine and dandy?" Reminton asks.
"Why shouldn't it? Dad, you don't have to worry about us. Mildred and I are having a great time trying to help you with this little mystery of yours." Katie continues, unbelievably perky to be a teenager early on a Sunday morning. "Are Mom and you OK and WHERE are you?"
"We're in a relatively small town called Dese in the Ethiopian Highlands. Quite picturesque actually. And yes, Mom and I are just fine." Remington says reassuringly, then continues, "Do you have any new information for us to guide us in our search?"
"Well, let's see…Mildred hasn't yet come up with a connection between BioNovus - which seems like a suspicious gang, if I have a say - and that purchasing process, organization, whatever. She's still searching though." Katie explains.
"Mildred won't give up easily, knowing her." Remington comments. "Anything else?"
"We had this idea that the soil may have an impact on the properties of this particular kind of wheat…" Katie begins, then being interrupted by her Dad.
"Eureka!" Remington says with excitement.
"What does the motto of California have to do with this?" A surprised Kate, obviously not knowing the true origin of the expression, asks Remington, making him confused.
"What motto?" Remington retorts, on his part unaware of his home state's motto, continuing "That's all Greek to me. It may be a long shot but there is a distinct difference in soil between Switzerland and Ethiopia. You just have to look at the color of the ground. You may have put your finger on a sore spot." Remington commends.
"Hey, I don't know about that, but we decided to call Dr. Ng Kheng about it and she promised to tell the lab to check it out when it does the other analysis. They've been advised about the arrival of the Ethiopian samples, by the way." Katie informs very matter of the fact.
"Good, very good." Remington says somewhat absentmindedly, digesting the latest information.
Steele at the market
[Day 6, early evening, GMT + 2 hrs, before noon GMT - 8 hrs]
After they all quickly freshen up, they decide to go out to have something to eat and then get to bed early.
"It's quite safe to eat the food at restaurants in this country…as long as it piping hot, that is…and if you have bottled, imported drinks to go with it." Mike reassures the Steeles as they leave the hotel.
The man from the airport steps out from a building nearby and follows them at a distance. The streets are quite crowded since the hotel is near the market, and there are a lot of young people around. They notice, that there are just as many men as there are women at the market and many goods are kept in beige-colored diamond-shaped (when seeing them sideways), round containers. In a way it looks like there are hundreds of little "flying saucers" sitting around all over the market place.
Steele entertaining
[Day 6, early evening-evening, GMT + 2 hrs, around noon GMT - 8 hrs]
"Just a little further there's restaurant that serves a mix of African foods but has genuine Ethiopian entertainment. Does that tempt your taste buds?" Mike's suggests, gesturing how tasty the food will be, as they reach the other side of the market place.
"Whatever you suggest." Remington answers, as Laura put her arm in his.
"Sounds very nice." Laura comments.
At the restaurant, a waiter greets them and gives them a table in front of the area where the entertainment is but far away enough for them to maintain a conversation if they wish to. The man following them gets a table as far as possible from them, but still having control over the exit.
As they sit down Mike says, "The man singing here tonight is a well-known azmari or troubadour. He's very famous for his way of singing epic, traditional songs."
"What is that instrument sitting over there?" Laura asks, noticing an unusual instrument for Western eyes.
"Oh, that's a krar, a lute with six strings. A very common instrument." Mike explains.
"So dear, what do you want to fancy your taste buds with?" Remington asks Laura, obviously hungry, looking at the fairly worn menu.
"Hm, that Moroccan couscous dish with vegetables sounds interesting." Laura ponders.
"That's a good choice." Mike reassures them. "Myself, I'll have the Malian chicken stew with tomato. Malian food is very tasty." Mike tells them.
As they listen to the music and eat their meals, they fill Mike in on what they have found out so far.
Steele a target
[Day 6, evening GMT + 2 hrs]
On their way back to the hotel, again being surveilled, Mike starts explaining "Ethiopia is the only country in Africa that hasn't been colonized. It was under Italian rule for come years in the late 30's - early 40's, though. You can see the influence here and there." He's so into his fact revealing that he does not notice that Remington and Laura stop to admire a church building, which looks like a textbook example of late 19th century Italian architecture.
Not noticing that Mike walks away from them, Remington first comments, "Wouldn't David have loved to see this, knowing his interest in architecture?"
"Our son is a true encyclopaedia when it comes to that." Laura responds, then she starts explaining, "The Ethiopian Church is orthodox, the second largest in the world after the Russian. It was very privileged until the revolution in 1974."
Mike unknowingly continues on his own, explaining further "The great Greek poet Homer was a huge admirer of this country." When he is about 50 meters away from the Steeles, an old land rover-type vehicle comes up from a side street. A man is seen leaning out of a door, snatching Mike.
The sudden roar of the vehicle causes Remington and Laura to look up the street and they can only watch as Mike is pulled into the vehicle. They start running after it, Remington calling out "O Brother, Where Art Thou", causing Laura to glare at him, knowing very well that it was a reference to a film.
After only a few seconds they see Mike being pushed back into the street.
As they get up to him, he is getting up, brushing the dust off his clothes, obviously very upset. Mike is muttering to himself, "Hoc opus, hic labor est." [This is the hard work, this is the toil.]
"Are you OK?" Laura asks with concern.
"Do you know who they were? What did they want from you?" Remington asks, upset at that he and Laura were not paying attention to staying close to Mike.
"Yes, yes…I'm fine." Mike says turned to Laura, as he stretches to feel how sore he is, continuing to Remington, sputtering out "No, have never seen'em before…That I'd advise you to stop your investigation, or else…Never! We'll go to the bottom of this." Mike finishes with determination, revealing how upset this has made him.
Steele unwinding at bedtime
[Day 6, evening GMT + 2 hrs]
Back in their hotel room, the Steeles try to unwind from the events of the evening.
"This case resembles more and more the Pelican Brief" Laura says as she gets into bed, closing the net behind her.
"Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Warner Studios, 1993. Ah, remember that one very well. Accidents start to happen during an investigation into an environmental issue." Remington continues, sitting up against the headrest, his pillow behind his back.
"Knowing that they're getting closer to the truth, it becomes more dangerous at the same time." Laura recalls.
"Obviously there's someone out there that's not happy with us being involved in the case. Whoever it is knows that we've gone to Ethiopia to investigate further." Remington reasons.
"Well, the only ones who know are the people at UNEASE, and our own staff…and of course all the trails that we've left in computers through bookings and such." Laura concludes, then continues, looking at Remington, sighing slightly, "In a way I feel like the character Julia played in that movie…Some small individual fighting 'the big unknown'."
"But there's one BIG difference, dear. YOU are the kind of woman that I'm terribly attracted to. Come here." Remington says as he leans over, pulling Laura close for a reassuring, loving kiss, sensing how uptight she is.
Feeling comfortable from his subtle compliment and closeness, Laura relaxes and kisses him passionately back. As the kiss breaks, she says, "Thank you, I needed that, now I need YOU."
Steele tampered with in the heat of the night
[Day 6, night GMT + 2 hrs, afternoon, GMT - 8 hrs]
Meanwhile, after the lights are out in both Mike's and the Steeles' room, the same man who has been following them from Addis Ababa can be seen leaning in under the engine hood of the UNEASE vehicle, tampering with something.
Steele making an observation
[Day 7, early morning GMT + 2 hrs, late evening Day 6, GMT - 8 hrs]
They all get up very early and with no hot water at that time of the day, still, the water is not terribly cold, just 'refreshing'. The hotel manager is able to whisk up some breakfast for them, coffee and some fresh, local bread, eaten plain. Before they leave Mike checks the water and oil levels in the car. Everything seems to be fine. Still, Remington notices a Caucasian man standing leisurely at a distance, seemingly involved in a conversation with some local men, but the man is regularly checking what Mike, Laura and he himself are doing.
As they take off, the Caucasian man gets in a jeep-type vehicle, then follows the UNEASE vehicle in such a manner that he barely has visible contact with them.
Steele overheating
[Day 7, before noon GMT + 2 hrs, night Day 7, GMT - 8 hrs]
As they descend the mountain, the pass through semi-forested areas, more coffee plantations and some herds of cattle. In grassy areas there are giant lobelias growing. At a distance they see the relatively flat landscape of the Afar Triangle spread itself out at the foot of the mountain.
The ride is very tranquil until the overheating lamp suddenly lights up.
"Darn!" Mike exclaims, stopping the vehicle. They all get out. Since the descend is quite steep, Remington and Laura put a semi-large rock in front of each of the front wheels to make sure that the vehicle does not start to roll, while Mike starts examining the car. He quickly finds the problem - a loose radiator hose.
"This came loose." Mike says, holding it up.
"Let me see it" Laura requests. After examining it she says, "This' been tampered with. Even though this vehicle's quite new, you can tell that the clamp holding the hose has been loosened on purpose. Several threads have the same metal color, which wouldn't be the case if it had unscrewed itself from, for instance, vibration. You can also see that a tool's been used on its head recently."
Mike just shakes his head, goes to the back of the vehicle and hauls out a screwdriver and a plastic container with water. While he does that Remington pulls Laura to the side.
"First the attack on Mike, now tampering with the vehicle. Without doubt somebody is unhappy with us sticking our noses into this. I just wonder WHO it is." Remington asks rhetorically.
"The only person showing us any distrustful behavior so far is our 'dear' Dr. Lindt. But how can he be involved?" Laura asks making a puzzled face, as Mike signals to them that they are ready to move on.
As they walk back to the car Remington whispers to Laura, "A car has been following us all morning. Why didn't it pass us when we had to stop?"
Camp outside Tendaho Steele impresses
[Day 7, afternoon GMT + 2 hrs, morning Day 7, GMT - 8 hrs]
In the early afternoon they arrive to the camp. Now in the lowlands, Remington and Laura notice how hot and sticky it is compared to the relatively tempered climate in the mountains. Bugs, especially flies, seem to be ever-present.
Mike notices that they are taken by the heat and comments with a grin on his face, "It's different to the mountains, ay? On top of that, May is the hottest month of the year, and the rainy season hasn't really started yet, if it'll start this year at all, that is."
When looking around, Remington and Laura also notice that beside tents, some regular huts have been built, giving the camp an air of permanency. What astonishes them though is the bundle of large saucers facing the sky in various directions.
"Excuse me for being blunt, but this looks more like you're trying to make contact with outer space rather than trying to reclaim land in an extremely poor country. I get a definite feeling of being in a James Bond film, that film…yes, 'Tomorrow Never Dies', Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Yeoh, MGM, 1997. You don't happen to have an evil media mogul lurking around, do you? One who thinks that the world isn't enough?" Remington says with a grin, causing Laura to give him a glare as if he took his film referencing habit one step too far. He then asks, quite amazed by the sight, "What ARE all those satellite dishes for?"
"No, no evil media people around here as far as I know." Mike says smilingly, obviously sharing the same interest in Bond films. Squinting his eyes at the Steeles, he then continues "Quite a fantastic view, isn't it? A few of those dishes actually are for satellite communication but most of them are for electricity."
"Electricity?" Laura exclaims surprised.
"Uhum…It was Dr. Ng Kheng's idea. She head learned about those when she studied in Australia, you know, down under they have a lot of sun and large distances, local power plants become a necessity…Then we combined the dish idea with the latest solar cell technology developed, actually from Sweden - can you believe that? Such a cold, dark place…Anyway, we now have quite an efficient little power station of our own. Any power not used directly is used to charge quite a grand back-up battery station. Very reliable and requires little maintenance." Mike explains with pride. "And when it came to telecommunication, conventional phones would just be too expensive so we opted for radio transmitted instead. Cellular phones work perfectly well around here."
"Impressive, just impressive" Remington mutters to himself and then he helps out with unloading the luggage from the car.
Steele bagged with seeds
[Day 7, afternoon GMT + 2 hrs, early morning GMT - 8 hrs]
Mike introduces the Steeles to Aster Asrat, a young, local woman in her 20's and part of the UNEASE staff. She shows them to their accommodation, which consists of a larger tent for the Steeles and a smaller tent for Mike. The tent has some kind of floor to avoid making everything inside the tent a mess in case of rain. The accommodation is simple, once again old-fashioned iron beds with mosquito nets, a closet, and a desk plus two chairs. A lamp powered by a solar-charged battery hangs from the ceiling. Toilets and washing facilities are in separate tents, one for women and one for men. Once again, solar cells come into use, this time for hot water.
When showing them the washing facilities, Aster says gently, a face apologizing for the need to remind them, "Please, preserve the water."
Upon returning to their tents, Mike tells them, "Friends, I regret to leave you by yourselves, but the incident last evening and the driving today have worn me out. I need to get some rest."
"Mike, please, you don't have to excuse yourself. We understand. I think we'll manage by ourselves. We have Miss Aster to ask, right?" Laura says in a friendly voice, remembering how Mike had addressed the young woman at their introduction, her last words causing Aster to shyly look to the ground.
Mike goes into his tent.
"So dear, what do we start with?" Remington asks Laura.
"How about the storage area for the seed and the grain?" Laura suggests.
"Sounds fine. Miss Aster, where can we find that?" Remington asks Aster.
Aster motions them to follow her. While walking to a huge tent, she says, "I'll introduce you to Mr. Gebre Wedajo, the person in charge of agricultural, non-cattle related activities at the camp."
At the tent Aster introduces them to Mr. Wedajo, then she leaves for her other duties.
"Nice to meet you Mr. Wedajo." Remington says. "Can you show us where you store the seed?"
"Certainly, sir." Mr. Wedajo says as they start to walk to the other end of the tent where they see stacks of seed bags piled up.
As they walk through the huge tent they notice how clean and neat everything is. Still, Remington has to ask, "Do you have problems with rats or mice?"
"No, sir. The cloth the tent is made from…rats don't like it. If I see a rat…not live long." Mr. Wedajo responds, showing with his arms what he would do to the rat to relieve it of its life, causing Laura to make a grimace of slight disgust.
At the seed bags, Mr. Wedajo says "We only have half a bag left from the first shipment, all the other bags are from the second."
"How come you've saved some?" Laura asks with curiosity.
"Mam, our recording and filing system for paper isn't very good. Then it's easier for me to keep track of a bag of seed since I'm the only one handing out seed from this storage area. One person, one responsible." Mr. Wedajo says with pride.
"Ah, I see. Can we take a closer look?" Remington continues.
Mr. Wedajo nods.
They note that the bags from the two shipments are identical with one exception, the barcode at the bottom is different.
"Hey, Mr. Steele, look!" Laura says, showing Remington that on the new bags there is another barcode below. The new bags have been relabeled. "Can I?" Laura asks Mr. Wedajo, making a tearing motion with her hand.
Mr. Wedajo nods in responds, just as curious as they are. When torn off, the same bar code label as on the old shipment can be seen.
"I wonder who has done this and why." Laura comments.
"Since we don't have barcode reading equipment here, I've never bothered checking them. I've just looked at the article number on the bags." Mr. Wedajo states, somewhat embarrassed that he has not taken notice of this modernity.
Medical Steele
[Day 7, afternoon GMT + 2 hrs, early morning GMT - 8 hrs]
They return to Aster since they want to continue their questioning by talking to some of the MPH staff to find out more about the condition that has affected so many of the villagers. Aster follows them to the MPH main tent, showing them to Dr. Roger Dalton.
"Dr. Dalton, you have visitors." Aster says briefly and leaves again.
"Good day, Dr. Dalton. I'm Remington Steele and this is my wife Laura Holt-Steele." Remington says, all of them shaking hands.
"Please, call me Roger. Mr. Steele, do I detect a British accent? Not from the Isles, I presume?"
"Yes, I am. Of Irish origin to be more exact. And please, Remington." Remington explains.
"And Laura." Laura fills in.
"I'm from Manchester myself. Anyway, how can I help you? You don't mind me checking on my patients while we talk, do you?" Roger asks, walking over to another tent to do his rounds, a local nurse with a badge stating "Dilba MELES" discreetly following, holding a clipboard.
"Certainly not, Roger. Please don't let us disturb...We've been hired by UNEASE to look into the recent illness that has affected this camp, the one causing a blood clotting problem." Remington starts as to explain their presence.
"Yes, we were informed about you coming. Let me then fill you in with what I know. When I came here six months ago, some people in this camp were still quite malnourished. Not that the situation was acute, but severe enough. People were weak, a bit anemic and that sort, and quite a few had pellagra. You know…?" Roger begins.
"Yes. Lack of niacin. Please…" Laura says, motioning Roger to continue.
"Shortly thereafter the people here harvested the first crop of wheat, which was to yield more than the traditional grain teff. The weather was unbelievably good so the yield was good and the wheat dried quickly. People could soon grind it to flour and start making porridge and bread. Shortly thereafter the symptoms of pellagra disappeared. Still, many people got vitamin supplements since the diet wasn't all that well balanced." Roger continues, checking out a child 6-7 years old, turning to nurse Meles informing her, "Nurse Dilba. She needs more fluids. She's dehydrated. Give her a liter over the next 24 hours."
The nurse just nods, and writes it down on the board.
Continuing on to the next patient, a very old man by Ethiopian standards, in his late 40's, he says, "Then by the time second crop was harvested about three months ago, things looked quite stable. But after about a week of a diet consisting predominantly of flour from the new harvest, a lot of people started complaining about stomach aches, and many children, who hurt themselves from playing too rough games at times, developed severe bruising." Then commenting to the nurse, "Continue with the IV as before." Nurse Dilba again nods and writes on her pad.
"So stomach ache was part of the symptoms as well?" Laura asks.
"Uhuh" Roger utters in response as they move on to the next tent.
When doing that Remington catches a glimpse of a man he very much thinks resembles the man watching them in Dese early that day.
They now enter a tent where there are some patients recovering from their blood clotting disorder. Roger walks up to a boy in his teens, presenting a terribly swollen calf and a stiff elbow.
"This teenager was just diagnosed. He'd been fine until he was playing soccer. An ordinary kick on the leg caused an immense intra-muscular bleeding. And a fall caused a bleeding in his elbow joint. Of course, that's very painful. And we have to monitor the pressure in his leg. There's a risk for tissue death, which would lead to amputation, heaven forbid…Bad enough with people getting de-limbed from mines than having it happen from this as well…" Roger says in a controlled voice. "Anyhow, the only treatment we can offer him is K-vitamin in excess doses to stop the bleeding, and then he'll be back on the average daily intake. To be honest, except for not having severe internal bleeding, one could think that he's been eating rat poison." Roger says with disgust in his voice. "The only thing is that this camp doesn't have a rat problem." He continues, explaining why he rules out that diagnosis.
"Yes, we've come to understand that…Do you have any idea what's causing all of this?" Remington queries.
"The symptoms are like hemophilia but that's a hereditary disease…In my opinion it's food-related. People who eat a mixed diet with wheat and teff seem to be affected less…But the remedy is simple, giving K-vitamin, constantly. Why we need to give K-vitamin…no, that's beyond my knowledge." Roger says, as if apologizing for not knowing.
"Oh, sorry for asking this but have you or any of the other MPH staff gotten ill?" Laura asks.
"No, well, a few of the local nurses but none of the overseas staff. This may sound odd to your ears, but to make sure that WE don't get ill, we use special food that we've brought with us. Besides eating fresh meat, that is, meat butchered only an hour ago or so, we base our cooking on dried or canned foods. It is bacteriologically tested and has vitamin supplements in it." Roger says, somewhat embarrassed that they treat themselves special.
"Hmmm…Thank you for taking the time. You've been helpful." Remington says, contemplating. He and Laura shake hands with the doctor and leave.
Steele bits and pieces
[Day 7, late afternoon GMT + 2 hrs, morning GMT - 8 hrs]
"We'd better update Dr. Ng Kheng and also find out if she's got any news for us." Remington tells Laura as they head back to their tent. Inside the tent the reception is good for their mobile, just as Mike has promised.
Laura calls the lab where Dr. Ng Kheng is overseeing the test of the grain. "Dr. Ng Kheng. Good morning. Laura Holt-Steele here. Any news for us?" She says slowly pacing the tent, while Remington is leaning back on the bed.
Switching over to a lab-environment, Dr. Ng Kheng is holding a test tube, slowly shaking it. "No, we're not finished yet. We're just preparing the samples from Ethiopia. We should be done in a couple of hours."
"I know you're working as fast as you can. Can you do a complete chemical analysis as well? You know, this idea about the soil affecting the grain." Laura continues.
"Yes, they have good spectrometers here. Then we can see how much of the minerals in the particular soils that have been absorbed."
"Good. Look forward to hearing more about that." Laura says encouragingly.
"But, we should also find out where in the grain they have been absorbed. That will take a little longer, but it isn't too hard to separate each sample into its contents and then check the substances out, one by one." Dr. Ng Kheng continues.
"Oh, that's great. Then you'll see if there is a black sheep somewhere, figuratively speaking." Laura comments. Her choice of words causing Remington to frown. "Please work as fast as you can. We've now seen with our own eyes how the people here are affected. Poor people."
"Can't agree with you more. Bye then." Dr. Ng Kheng finishes off.
"Bye." Laura turns off the mobile and walks over to Remington to fill him in.
Outside the Caucasian man walks away from their tent, having stood at the back of it, listening in on the conversation, through the thin tent walls.
Steele having a cultural experience
[Day 7, early evening GMT + 2 hrs, late a.m. GMT - 8 hrs]
In the evening, Mike, Remington, Laura and Roger gather around a large campfire to eat a stew Aster has made for them.
"Miss Aster. What have you made for us this evening?" Mike asks.
"Just a beef and vegetable stew. Local, fresh herbs. Bread from teff. You like it Mr. Mike?" Aster asks shyly.
Before Mike is able to answer, Laura says instead, "It's very nice. My cooking skills are elementary compared to yours." She smiles to Remington, then whispering to him "You should know, shouldn't you?" Laura's comment causes Remington to stroke her back in a tender gesture. Then Laura says to Aster, "Maybe you can teach Mr. Steele to make this?"
Aster just shakes her head and smiles timidly.
As they eat, children from the camp's missionary school perform a song and a dance based on the Ethiopian-Orthodox Church tradition in honor of the special guests. The children sing one by one, changing singer after a few phrases, accompanied by hand clapping and a kebero (a cylindrical drum). The dance is liturgical. Remington and Laura sit closely together, listening and watching intently, amazed at the friendliness and the warmth of the people, despite all the hardship they have had to endure.
"I wish Katie and David could have been here with us to experience this friendliness." Remington says quietly to Laura, who nods in return.
Day 7 - Events Steele Happening in the USA
Steele learning more in LA
[Day 7, mid-morning GMT - 8 hrs]
With the latest news from her parents, Katie decides to learn more about vitamins. Surfing the net for medical sites, she finds a few that has detailed information on vitamins.
'OK, let me see. Two different kinds of K vitamin. K1 (Phyllokinon) and K2 (Menakinon). Both soluble in fats. K1 through green leafy vegetables. K2 by bacteria in your intestines. Normally no need to take extra K-vitamin since enough from bacteria. Only if fat absorption is reduced, illness in gall ducts, the pancreas or the small intestine is present or if the bacteria are affected by long term treatment with antibiotics. Hm. Dr. Ng Kheng probably has thought about this but I'll e-mail her about trying to test the effect of the grain on these bacteria.'
Steele having a breakthrough
[Day 7, late afternoon GMT - 5 hrs]
Dr. Ng Kheng is seen together with a man, a Dr. Steve Polak, in a research lab. When comparing the gene structures ('protein bar charts') of the different samples, they at once see that all the Swiss samples look the same. Also, two of the seed samples look like one another - the Swiss one and the second Ethiopian. But as harvested grain they all differ. The one from Switzerland does not resemble any of the two Ethiopian samples, just as little as the two Ethiopian samples resemble each other.
Dr. Ng Kheng writes down their findings in an e-mail, addressed both to Steele Investigations and the personal e-mail address of the Steeles. She rounds off her message by telling them that the chemical content analysis will be complete in a few hours. And that they will run some more tests as suggested by Katie.
To Part 4

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