thrice great hermes
by stanley lieber
she could write it all on paper. three-ring binders and the color coded system of underlining: black, white, pale green, orange, blue, red, gray, yellow, purple, brown, taught to her by her father. little paper collars that fit snugly around the ring holes she’d punched into each sheet—violet didn’t know what they were called.
a small bookshelf housed the binders. she transported them back and forth between locations (work, home) in an oversized duffle bag. once full she was barely able to hoist it into the truck.
contract work, mostly. human intelligence was not dead. disney paid well for this deniable variety of collection and analysis. compared to her normal salary, which the county sometimes decided to pay out. she compiled new dossiers and revised existing ones. fact-checked analyses written by other contractors, sometimes being paid to re-fact-check her own. she was at once a writer and an editor, which was normally frowned upon by the corporate bean counters. demand had normalized the tacit abrogation of standard protocol.
disney’s competitor, gogol/verizon, also paid, though not quite as well as their older, more openly aggressive sibling. sometimes she submitted the same report to both entities. no one ever seemed to notice, or at least no one ever complained.
before she submitted a report she would always gogol the text of her article, just to make sure that any uncredited borrowing she’d committed wasn’t immediately apparent. in a way, she’d come to realize, this was a form of early submission. but whatever flags she’d triggered hadn’t seemed to have affected the demand for her work. they just kept on paying her to write.
violet vaguely remembered the first request she’d received that mentioned her son. it had been quite a while ago, and at the time she hadn’t considered it out of the ordinary—at one time or another she’d reported on all the members of her family—but the requests had kept coming in, steadily increasing in frequency until some months it felt as though she did nothing but keep track of her son. which felt—somehow, she guessed—wrong. was it a conflict of interest? were there tax implications? she concluded these considerations were above her paygrade.
the duffle bag was secured with a small padlock, the key to which she wore on a chain around her neck. other technicians at the base mostly stayed out of her stuff, but it wasn’t wise to take chances with the sensitive material, especially when that material frequently concerned family.
additional security concerns were dealt with as they arose, on a case-by-case basis.
one thing she insisted on: she turned off her visor while she wrote.