A quick update before the holidays! Everything should pick up after the holidays. Again, thanks for reading!

Dawn's rosy fingertips broke the still cover of darkness the next morn, awakening sleeping birds and pushing back the blanket of night. But even as the first ray of light illuminated the sand, Echo Unit was up and about. Gray had always been one for discipline. John Morris had been assigned to keep watch on the girl for today, and so he did. This morning she was in a state that resembled a deep slumber rather than her previous state of unconsciousness. He wondered if she had awoken during the night, but she was in the same position in which he or they had left her.

"Morris, Buzz, Pen!" Gray barked, and several heads turned. "You stay here, and for God's sake clean this pigpen up! The rest of you are coming with me. We need provisions. Understood?"

"Yes Sir!" came the chorus of replies.

"Well, come on then! We haven't got all day!" Not Gray's first little white lie.

Morris sighed and kicked a discarded canteen. As his boot collided with metal, it made a dull clang and went skittering across the floor before coming to rest under someone's cot.

Their "headquarters" was actually two conjoined rooms in a locally owned hotel. There were only ten rooms, but no customers. He could see why. The family that owned it had let it slowly deteriorate until it looked more like a pig sty. Not once had he ever seen them clean. Anything. Of course, right now that was a plus; he didn't think they'd be to happy to see some young Muslim girl tied up, much less in a room with four men. The family already wasn't too happy about housing Americans, but they'd wanted the extra money to buy that shiny new scooter they'd been flaunting around town.

Morris walked over to the door connecting the two rooms, and courteously paused and knocked. To his right was the bathroom shared by both rooms. Behind him was a decent-sized walk in closet, where the unit stored most of the more bulky items. The other room had a small closet, but it was barely big enough for all their clothes. The other difference between the two rooms was the beds. This room had one queen bed and the other two twins. Of course, there were cots laid out in each room for the rest of them.

He sighed and ran a hand through his ginger hair. "PEN!" he yelled through the wall. This time the result was almost immediate.

"Whaat?" Morris got a glimpse of his familiar spiked hair as the door opened. It was a total mystery how he kept his hair styled like that.

"Have you found that extra camel pack yet?"

"Nope, still lookin', Staff Sarge," the young brown-haired man replied, rolling his eyes.

Morris sighed and adjusted his glasses."Well, get on it. This place really does need cleaning up."