Marion Wolfe was born an only child in Philadelphia. Her mother, Clare Fitzgerald, is the heiress to a local Philadelphia fortune, the Fitzgerald Bank. Her father, Sir Randolph Wolfe is an Englishman whom her mother met in Monaco. Marion's parents divorce quickly. Sadly, Marion's father dies in a plane crash in Kenya. Clare Wolfe is Senator for the State of Pennsylvania (under the name of Clare Fitzgerald). Marion is a brilliant student and early on shows great interest in the study of foreign civilizations as well as a gift for science.
After leaving high school, she studies biology at Yale, then ethnology in Chicago where she obtains a Ph.D.. Although she had intended to go into research, Marion's mother persuades her to enter a profession in the media, and she becomes a journalist. She writes several reports on the threatened civilizations of the world.
On her mother's recommendation yet again, she is commissioned by National Geographic to make an important documentary on the last native civilizations in South America. Clare Wolfe uses her connections to grant her daughter military protection due to the dangers of such an expedition. Marion and her team participate in a month long intensive training programme at the SEALS camp. One session includes a full week of parachuting practice with Cutter Slade as the main instructor. One jump from the plane to reach an oil platform turns into a complete disaster. A sudden storm unloads unexpected stress on the team. A gust of wind blows the cameraman out of the normal path. His parachute becomes stuck on a nearby crane. Against Cutters' orders, the panicking rookie unties the straps and finds a precarious refuge in the crane's transportation jaws 130 feet above the raging waves. Cutter stabilizes the jaws by holding two dangling steel chains. Sending the closest person to him - Marion- out to move a lever on the control panel, which will return the crane's jaws to the platform before lowering it to the ground, proves to be a disaster. Panicking, Marion pushes the wrong lever. For a split second Cutter finds himself hopelessly looking at the slowly opening jaws and the trainee's bewildered face as he slides from the crane into the sea. Mark Tilfont's lifeless body is found the next morning and the whole operation cancelled on the spot.
When Marion returns to the United States, Clare accuses the Pentagon of deliberately endangering the lives of the trainees. She finds out about Cutter Slade and vents her anger on him via a long legal battle. For the first time, Marion and her mother have a serious disagreement. Marion explains to her mother Cutter's real role and how deeply she is in his debt, but her mother refuses to listen. Clare refuses to allow Marion to see Cutter again, even though Marion only wants to explain that she does not agree with her mother. Marion moves away from her mother and gives up journalism. She becomes a bio-ethnological researcher. She starts to travel widely again and she publishes an Encyclopaedia of Terrestrial nutrients. Finally, Marion becomes Director of the Exobiology Laboratory of the University of Chicago and is recognized as one of the leading specialists in her field.