Lots of stories out there to get us ready for Sunday’s Super Bowl between the 49ers and Ravens. This is Flip Side’s:
The gun barrel was being pressed too hard against Dr. Lee Chong’s left temple, while the right side of his entire face began to singe. Chong thought he could smell his skin burning.
A football game. It was a football game that would ultimately end the life of this brilliant scientist, whose work radically impacted society. He would go unknown to everyone.
Or almost everyone. There was Barbie. There was also Wax, the sneering gangster who had, moments earlier, turned on the burner in Chong’s hotel-suite kitchen and was pressing the doctor’s face toward the flames with a shining, ruby-red pistol.
“You know why you’re alive!” Wax’s breath was like hot garbage. “My father didn’t give you a king’s life so you could ruin him! How can anyone be so ungrateful!?”
Yes, the smell was skin. Dr. Lee Chong was being maimed and murdered over the Super Bowl.
Wax eased off enough to let Chong lift his face from the stove. They stood face-to-face, eyes aligned. Then Wax struck Chong with the gun. It was like eating a hammer swung full-speed, beyond any pain Chong had ever felt. He was on his knees, hands to busted face.
“We were your family, Chong!” Wax was above him, gun at his side. The gun rose until it pointed right at Dr. Lee Chong’s face.
“You should have pushed the button, Chong.” He was going to pull the trigger. “This was about honor. Why’d you do it?”
“The brothers,” Dr. Lee Chong moaned through blood and teeth pieces.
“Brothers? You were my brother. And brother, you ain’t any more.”
Quite an accomplishment for two brothers to meet as opposing head coaches in the Super Bowl. The last thing that went through Dr. Lee Chong’s head, other than the bullet, was the thought “Their mother must be proud.”
Lee Chong was fast as a baby. He was faster as a boy. He had always been fast, and grew interested in knowing why he was fast.
He got smarter than everyone else. Whatever he wanted to understand, he understood. As a teen he watched a nature show with cheetahs sprinting in slow motion. Later, he watched “Terminator” and was transfixed by the ending, where a robot rose from flames. The images were beyond revelation.
The bionics were easy if you knew what pieces you needed and how to put them together. The legs Lee Chong created helped the disabled walk, but that was ancillary. A bonus. The point was to make human athletes run as fast as cheetahs.
The technology earned him a doctorate. But the procedure to implant Chong’s devices into normal, healthy legs was bloody and invasive. He had achieved his goal and so resigned himself to a comfortable retirement to academia’s highest levels.
Chong died never knowing how his work came to be admired by the gang lord Shark Valentine, who offered an option more appealing than retirement. Valentine wanted Chong’s legs. He loved football and he loved winning money. What he hated was gambling.
“I don’t gamble, doctor,” Valentine hissed when they met, “because I can make anything happen. You’re going to rig the game for me, or you’re going to bleed until you die.”
Shark Valentine had chosen a young man named Colin to be turned into a superhuman. Chong performed the grotesque procedure beneath the trash talking crescent-moon smile of Valentine’s awful son, Wax. “Don’t slip, Doc,” Wax cackled, thumbing the safety on his ruby-red glock.
For doing this, Dr. Lee Chong was given a mansion, and he was given Barbie. She had been a prostitute before they met, he a virgin. Barbie made Chong feel like the king of Rome.
His instructions were to keep Colin ready, those robotic legs tuned, so that with the mere push of a button from miles away Dr. Lee Chong could make Colin run so fast he was impossible to stop. He didn’t do this during every game, only the ones on which Valentine had wagered a fortune in blood money.
Valentine’s hundreds of thousands multiplied into millions, and the 49ers made the Super Bowl.
Valentine was so excited for the game, he put his whole family up in New Orleans during Super Bowl week. He also brought along Dr. Lee Chong, who was to remote-boost Colin’s legs at precisely the right moments to guarantee a 49er win.
Chong brought Barbie. Of course he did. They went out the night before the game, just the two of them, to the nicest restaurant in town.
Seated one table over were two similar-looking men and an old woman. It was the Harbaugh brothers, Jim and John, having dinner with their mother. She was wide-eyed, gray-haired. Sweet and happy. Bliss personified. She clapped her hands and told her sons how excited she was, and how great the game would be.
“I never knew my mother,” Barbie said. Then she chugged down her second glass of wine in 10 minutes and made a trumpet sound with her lips.