Marlys Hoffman was the oldest in a family with five daughters, and after her mother's death when Marlys was fifteen, she found herself becoming substitute mother to her four younger sisters. Her father, though a busy and successful attorney in the San Francisco, always tried to make time for his children and felt bad whenever his work schedule prevented this - which was often. He had hired Amy, a live-in nanny to help care for his children in their Russian Hill home, and Marlys bonded closely to the young woman, who was only ten years her senior.

In fact, it was Amy who first noticed Marlys' inquisitive nature, and encouraged it the best she could. Amy would mention to Joseph Hoffman whenever she thought Marlys might benefit from a special activity that engaged her mind, just as she always mentioned plays that his younger daughter Karen wished to try out for, or piano recitals for Holly. Marlys was particularly fond of trips to the Exploratorium, which featured engaging science exhibits aimed at young people.

Marlys was especially fond of figuring out how things worked. A quiet child, she often found herself taking things apart and putting them back together again, taking note mentally as to the role of each separate piece. By her later high school years, she had become active in her private high school's elite team of robotics designers, called RED (Robotics Engineering Design team - she would refer to it jokingly with friends as RAD). They successfully competed against other high schools and designed programs for their creations.

After attending a summer engineering camp at UC Berkeley, she was admitted to the school's exclusive engineering program, specializing in electrical engineering design and programming. Her first two years out of college, Marlys joined the Peace Corps and worked as an assistant engineer for designing, building and installing power lines being run to the remote Andean village of San Pedro de Casta, 4 hours outside of Lima, Peru.

The years she spent in San Pedro were intensely formative for Marlys' outlook and development, both personally and professionally. She saw and experienced a way of life that was completely new to her previously sheltered experiences in California. She was confused at first why the people of this beautiful country were living in such poverty and then soon enough, she became determined to both embrace a simpler life, while at the same time help to improve it in small but substantial ways.

She renewed her contract with the Peace Corps and made it into her career. Soon, she was an engineering coordinator and instructor, and helped set up and teach classes to the indigenous people of the Andes so that they could better understand those they wished to do business with while maintaining their own way of life. She didn't wish to impose western ways on them, but rather give them the knowledge and tools so that they could help improve their own communities with irrigation, electricity and education.

When she was 28, she met and fell in love with an architect from Lima, Carlos Montalvo. He had volunteered his time one summer to help design a new town center, and ended up staying to help Marlys' electrical engineering team design ongoing improvements to the old irrigation and water management system. It was Carlos who, having grown up amidst the political upheaval of the seventies, taught her how to fire weapons and basic survival skills. You could never be too prepared, he reasoned, and she agreed.

For three years, things were great they'd even discussed starting a family. But then, Carlos was killed in a freak helicopter crash during a sudden downwind as the pilot flying him back from another town tried to land.

Marlys did the only thing she knew how to do: work, and avoid thinking about her loss until it became too huge to deal with anymore. In 2000, she took a leave of absence from the Peace Corps and moved back home to San Francisco, staying first with her father, and then with Amy.

Then, Capt. Tripps hit. Amy didn't fall sick until after the rest of the family did, almost as if she had waited to make sure Marlys would survive. Then, on the road to the Hoffman cabin in the Sierras where the pair intended to ride out the flu, Amy finally succumbed to the flu, leaving Marlys on her own.

Marlys stayed at the cabin for a while, processing everything for the larger part of July until the dreams became too much to bear by herself. She knew she had to try and find her way to Boulder and the old woman in her dreams she had no idea why, but she had to do it. So she decided to travel south and then east, since there had been a toxic spill on I-80 near Sacramento during the panic and she didn't want to chance it. She's now headed on a scooter through New Mexico, and hoping to make it to Boulder in one piece.