Leigh grew up in Rotterdam, drawn to the waterfront as a refuge from her unhappy home life and volatile father. Enchanted by the marine world of her childhood, she excels in postgraduate research on ancient algae. When an unfathomable vent appears in the mid-Atlantic floor, Leigh joins the investigating team; what she finds there will change her life forever. Around the same time, a trio of engineers, unknown to each other, make a seismic breakthrough in rocket propulsion, announcing an almost limitless era of space exploration. Billions of dollars is poured into projects, and Leigh's classified research on the ocean vent sees her recruited to develop an experimental food source for off-world travel. From her base in the Mojave desert, she's drawn further into the space agency's work, where she learns of a series of anomalies suggesting a beacon sent from the far side of the solar system.