CHUM is for now a short story, but I plan on making it part of a novel set in an alternate version of 1920s Chicago. Robots are just being introduced to the world, especially as part of the Untouchable Project aimed at using new and very convincing androids to crackdown on those who break Prohibition law. In the middle of it all is Thomas Quinn, a simple supervisor in a robotics factory who hopes that his latest project will impress one certain girl.

To say that Tom’s experience with being around women was limited would be an understatement. Shy and awkward as he was, it wasn’t completely surprising to him when he thought back to the last time he even held hands with another girl. He had to comfort his baby cousin somehow when she found herself separated from her mother, Tom’s aunt Frida.

His mother told him that he was still a handsome young man with his whole life ahead of him, and that may have been true with him in his mid twenties, but he still felt at times that he was wasting his better years when he saw his younger brother with a different, beautiful young flapper every night.

Perhaps he could adopt some thing like his brother did, like a fake Italian accent, a nonsense nickname, and a gun. But Tom didn’t like guns at all, and he always grew so squeamish even at the mere rumor of one being in the room. He had no hope of ever being a family’s associate like Johnny.

That wasn’t so say that he felt just as nervous walking through the factory today with Marla by his side. He had been admiring her from afar for almost a year now, and flirted with the line that had separated admiration and stalking when he shadowed her on some of his days off, if only to find out more about her and what she liked. He was certainly too shy and invisible to strike up a conversation himself.

Om must have looked like such a nervous wreck now, with Marla walking next to him in her best red dress and heels, and with lipstick and a flower in her hair to match. The dress didn’t show off her curves at all. Tom wondered at first if she even had them, and only dreamed of a time when he could ever get a chance to see them. But Marla’s true beauty was in her face, with hardly any makeup expect for her lipstick. She certainly didn’t need to wear any at all, and the lipstick was just for showing off.

It certainly worked. Every man in the factory stopped his work to look at her, pausing periodically and losing focus on the tasks at hand just to get another glimpse of her. There was the occasional whistle from someone standing a safe distance away. Surely, she got that kind of attention from interested man and jealous women often enough to bore almost anyone else, but Marla continued to accept it with grace and a renewed sense of pride.

In comparison, it only made poor Tom all the more anxious. His pulse raced even more, and he felt his body turn pink. Anyone who turned to look at the pair at that point would wonder what the hell Marla was doing with the bundle of nerves named Tom.

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