Virtual Fire

Four Who Changed History: Meet the Narrators of VIRTUAL FIRE

Paul Simmons: Computer Nerd

In 1970, Paul “Tesla” Simmons and his best friend Toby Jessup were college seniors more interested in computers than politics. President Nixon’s escalation of the Vietnam War and their friendship with student activist Meg Wells drew Paul and Toby into the antiwar movement and a choice between violent and non-violent protest. Today, Paul is a leading software designer. HYDRA, his visionary new program, will alter the course of history.

Meg Wells: Activist

Today, Meg Wells is a dedicated social justice advocate, a Nobel laureate, and the director of Vietnam’s Mekong Clinic. In 1970, she was a college senior and an organizer in the anti-Vietnam War movement. Her gift? Call it leadership, persuasiveness, or the courage of her convictions. Call it manipulation. For better or worse, Meg’s gift is getting people to do things, whatever things she decides need doing—even if it means reshaping history.

Toby Jessup: Most Wanted

In 1970, all Toby Jessup wanted was a college education, time on Wellston University’s IBM 650 mainframe computer, a good game of pinball, and a pepperoni pizza. His ideals and his friendship with Paul and Meg led him to oppose America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. His unwavering commitment to non-violence changed history. Today, Toby is a fugitive.

Melora Kennedy: Hacker

Today, Melora Kennedy lives in a world where access to computers is limited by law to a select few military programmers. Despite her youth and lack of formal education, she became a cyber genius who revolutionized computerized warfare for the United States military. Together with Toby, Tesla, and Meg, Melora’s choices in the face of her generation’s war will determine our future.


May 1970. Vietnam. Cambodia. Kent State. Jackson State. Violent protests erupt on college campuses across America. Paul “Tesla” Simmons and his best friend Toby Jessup are college seniors who spend their time writing programs on Wellston University’s IBM 650 mainframe computer, playing pinball in the back room of the Beef ‘n’ Bun restaurant, and dreaming. The invasion of Cambodia by American and South Vietnamese forces, the shooting deaths of unarmed student protesters at Kent State, and their friendship with Student Mobilization Committee leader Meg Wells draw Paul and Toby into the antiwar movement and a fateful choice between violent and non-violent protest. As the war and opposition to the war reach their climaxes, Toby, Paul, and Meg become ever more radicalized, only to have their plans overshadowed by an incident that alters the course of their personal histories forever.

Decades later, Paul, a successful programmer in an era transformed by the rise of the computer, makes a revolutionary technological discovery. Realizing he now has the means to change a tragic, yet seemingly minor historical event, Paul acts, and unwittingly sets history on a deadly new course.

Living in the world his actions created, a world where computers are the province of a select few, seeing life as it was only in his dreams, can Paul, with the help of the brilliant young hacker Melora Kennedy, return history to its proper path and restore the dreams of his youth?

From New England’s ivy-covered college halls, to New Jersey’s crumbling cities, to the beaches of Florida’s Gulf coast and the ruins of post-war Vietnam, VIRTUAL FIRE’s four narrators relate their experiences of war, resistance to war, the power of friendship and the power of dreams.

Paperback and eBook editions include a compendium of links to books, movies, and music for those who want to learn more about the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement.

Author’s Note: VIRTUAL FIRE contains scenes concerning warfare, post-traumatic stress disorder related to the Vietnam War, violent acts committed by and against antiwar protesters, and explicit language.