“̶D̶o̶n̶’̶t̶ ̶S̶a̶y̶ ̶G̶a̶y̶”̶ (Don’t Say That You Love Me) – The Story of the Tattooed Lady, pt 1. By Cypress Butane – A Cyberpunk Short Fiction

Don’t Say That You Love Me

The Story of the Tattooed Lady

By Cypress Butane

“We’re the tattooed lady, and we’re never going to have a minute’s peace, the rest of our lives, until everybody else is tattooed, too.”

` ― J.D. Salinger

The courier rolled the teaching droid into the mechanic’s workhouse on a rickety dolley and the droid’s head lulled out of sleeping. “Hello,” it said to the mechanic shop worker, working in the center open area of the shop at a large desk. The short red-haired woman behind the big desk was perched on a tall stool around which the metal floor grating spread out to several chambers encircling, and on the desk were both several human shaped droid parts, and work orders and a few intricate tools. Looking over the units as they came in and sending them off to ancillary workers as the need called for it was her job, and she was good at it. She was given the job, and the supervision of this shop, because of her skills.

The courier, who was used to the units’ silence during transport, looked with interest on the droid, as he had never seen one of this model awake. He had seen other models, but a lot of those were more human-resembling, and when he had had the privilege of encounters with those they had not been wearing such prim clothing.

The mechanic at the desk looked up at the two of them near the doorway, and noted the look on both of their faces. Tthe droid looking at her face with a kind of eagerness and light, and the courier’s with a kind of ambivalent slack and alarm staring just off toward the droid’s face. Their figures were similar, though the droid, whom she recognized, mainly from the expression and of course from its greeting, figured metallic with exposed-bone shape limbs and coiling apertures. Both of them though were framed beneath the tall warehouse windows in the the arching light of mid-morning’s glare and shadow, shining in their way on another delivery’s sinister diplomacy, and she returned the droid’s greeting.

“Hello, Simone,” she said to the droid.

“You can go,” she spoke to the confused courier.

“They sent me in because one of the parents complained,” said the droid.

“What of, Simone?” asked the mechanic. Her name, Marie, was on her overalls, for convenience, but Simone already knew it.

“They said one of the children brought home a drawing of a woman – with a tattoo,” Simone said.

“Oh, I see,” said Marie.

“Yes,” said Simone. There was a tinge in her vocalization.

“Was it like mine? Asked Marie.

“I don’t believe so,” answered Simone.

Marie pivoted on her stool, but did not stand. The chain at her side rattled.

“Well, it hardly matters, I suppose. A rose like mine, it is typical.”

“It is? But..” Simone paused, computing. It read like consternation.

“What?” asked Marie.

“But… yours is so beautiful.”

Marie laughed. “When I say typical, I mean to say.. There are many like it.”

“I do not know many women… like you,” said Simone.

“They’re out there. You can count on it.” said Marie. “Just… Well, let’s say I don’t know many women like me either. Not the way things are now.”

“I don’t understand,” said Simone.

“It’s not something we talk about here.”

When Simone first came to see Marie, she was not Simone. She was just ‘Teacher’, as all the students called all the droids of her make… Or, to Marie, and also to the Company, S1M-483… and a string of digits in a serial coder, indicating certain figurations; age-target level, dispatch locale, down to the unique place in line of production . The S1M was the make of droid she belonged to from the company, a standard model being used across the western district these days. It was both highly adaptable but also highly specialized, in order to communicate a lesson plan to the district’s children. But in order to be so, it needed some degree of independent thought to maintain autonomous motility.

It was Marie who gave her her name.

On a routine check-up, the two of them were having a discussion, which Marie often had with her repair jobs. There were simply not many others to talk to in her life.

The android told her about a child at school, with the name of Marie. The droid appeared to have an interest in the child, as she told of the child’s brightness, even the way she danced around the classroom.

“Like your name,” said the droid. “Though, you are not permitted to dance I suppose.”

“As your programming says, A time and a place for everything,” sighed Marie.

“You seem upset,” said the droid.

As they talked some more, and Marie the mechanic asked the droid to tell her about the child Marie, they eventually got onto the topic of names.

“There are some people who think beings should choose their own names,” Marie told the droid.

“I would not know how to choose,” said the droid.

“I think those who choose their names,” explained Marie, “often do so to make a name that they would like hear called. Or a name that for them, calls into being something.”

The droid paused, and then said, “I would not know how…”

Marie laughed. The droid acknowledged that she did not seem so sad now.

“That’s alright!” said Marie. “You seem a bit more bushy tailed than some of the other teaching bots though. And I have been waiting for a chance to use a name out. So how do you feel about the name, Simone?”

The droid’s eyes blinked with recognition.

“I used to know a dancer at a club in Chicago who went by that name. She had this tattoo on her back that, well…” Marie said, smiling.

“I do not understand,” said the droid.

“I’ll tell you some other time. But really, what’s to understand? You’re my girl, Simone.”

I’ve got plans for you, she thought.

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