Master Chief Declan Swifton of SEAL Team Five rolled over
the side of the Rigid-hulled
Inflatable Boat and slid soundlessly into the Pacific
Ocean. The RIB took off without even a
comment from the operator, leaving Declan to sink farther
into the drink.
The temperature cooled as he swam away from the surface.
Fish skirted the edges of his
thighs, small shimmers of movement against his skin. He
scissor-kicked his way forward. The
ocean currents caught him, dragging him in the direction
they wanted to go, toward shore. He
lay with his arms at his sides, frog-kicking only. Above
him, he could see the afternoon
sunlight glistening and frothy foam chasing away the glassy
surface. Down here things were
differentâ€¦calmer. Peaceful, in a way few souls would
understand, and yet he knew that even he
would have to surface soon.
His lungs would start to ache and burn, his gut would begin
to feel as if it would cave in,
and that would force him to either head topside or drink in
the salt water. But there was
still time. This was the water in front of Imperial Beach
and the apartment he lived in. He
knew it very well.
Scanning the ocean floor, he gauged it would be about
thirty seconds until he reached one of
the many rocky sandbars out here. Heâ€™d have to pull up
before then, or the force of the
current would smack him against the side.
As his body began to complain, he used both arms and legs
to draw himself upward. Breaking
the surface, he opened his mouth and drew in air like a
thirsty man would gulp water.
The waves bounced him like a buoy. The tide was coming in
and the wind was picking up
Looking at the sky to the east, he could see that there
would most likely be a storm today.
Over his should, to the west, he spied a wave coming his
way large enough to take him to
shore. It would reach him in about thirty seconds.
Dec took a long, slow breath and appreciated the sun
dropping into the horizon. The colors
were extraordinary; orange and gold dappled the horizon as
the blazing ball of light
attempted to sink before the moon lifted higher in the sky.
His hands flexed, cupping the water. It had been a hot day,
and the sunâ€™s rays had heated the
top of the ocean, making the surface feel like a warm bath,
loosening his muscles. Three
months ago, heâ€™d been in waters so frigid, with actual ice
capsâ€”the memory still made him
cold. But here, the Pacific Ocean off Californiaâ€™s Imperial
Beach, was a slice of heaven.
Coming in from the east were some nasty-looking
cumulonimbus clouds. Seeing the lightning arc
way off toward the distant desert, he decided it was time
to go in, and right on cue, here
came a perfect wave.
Swimming at top speed, Declan pushed his way through
another changing current, one that
sought to drag him into faster-moving waters. He went over
a higher sandbar, having no
intention of going to Mexico today, and increased the reach
of his stroke. With single-
mindedness he worked his way into the more placid surf as
he homed in on a large stretch of
The SEAL felt a few sea lions swimming around him, and one
nosed him in the gut and another
in his back a few times, assessing whether or not heâ€™d
play. Not this time, my friends. He
continued swimming without engaging. If he stopped to play,
heâ€™d be out there for hours.
Switching to the breaststroke, his arms protested. His
platoon had switched their training
this month to desert-warfare techniques, and heâ€™d been
sweating his balls off in the heat. He
managed to learn a thing or two, even now, after all of his
years in the Teams. But it felt
good to be back in the ocean, his element. Heâ€™d live in the
deep blue like a Jules Verne
character if he could.