Rise - Chapter Nine- Gabriel Arnold

Rise, Chapter 9

By Gabriel Arnold

“Hey, Rusty!”

“Let’s see, double kong tutorial…build up speed…jump, keep hips high…tap fast…prepare for landing…maybe my hips aren’t high enough…"

“Ruusss-tyyy…”

“So what about double kong to precision? I know I’ve seen that before – OW!"

“Good, I got your attention!”

“Ouch, my ear! I nearly fell out of my chair…Jenna!?”

“About time you realized who it was. Day dreaming again?”

“Uh, yeah, I guess so.”

Rusty straightened up in his chair and scrambled to compose himself, quickly exiting out of the video. He had been day dreaming... sort of, anyway. It was physics study hall at school and Rusty, to his credit, was studying like directed. Just not classical physics. Well, it was physics, but more of the PKFR variety. He had been researching technique combinations and tutorials, absentmindedly flipping through old video clips, when he had felt the sharp pinch on his ear. The pincher turned out to be Jenna, who was sitting behind Rusty at the next table. Why now?, he wondered to himself as he pulled his fire-red hair out of his eyes, Why here? I picked this spot to be away from people.

Jenna’s gaze returned to her computer screen, her backside to Rusty’s, to avoid attracting the teacher’s attention. She whispered behind her, trying to pick up where she left off, “So what were you looking at?”

Rusty tapped the console and flashed through a few text and audio files, trying to remember what he had read already. “Nothing special, just Newton, and gravity’s rate of speed.”

“Ah, I see,” said Jenna, “Gravity and how it applies to 360 Cat Leaps?”

Rusty froze, his finger an inch away from the screen. “What the, did you hack my screen!?”

Jenna giggled behind Rusty’s back, obviously enjoying torturing him. Rusty could hear the clicking as she went through system commands. “Just to watch. But that must have been some day dream, I’ve been watching for ten minutes and you never noticed.”

“Ah, man. Who showed you how to do that? These consoles are usually pretty secure.”

“Lee did.”

At that moment Rusty was glad Jenna had her back to his and couldn’t see him cringe. Hiding the scowl from his voice he said, “Really? He’s getting better then. It used to take him all study hall to work through the fire wall.”

“Yeah yeah. But I couldn’t help but notice all the PKFR tips. I guess the rumors are true.”

Rusty’s scowl was suddenly replaced by confusion, his eyebrows bunching together over his eyes. “What? What rumors?”

“That you’re gonna be in the Pro/Am. Wow, you must be daydreaming 24-7, people have been talking about it for nearly two weeks.”

Rusty buried his head in his hands, groaning silently to himself. This was not what he wanted, not at all. It was just over a month to the Pro/Am and already word had leaked out that he was going to compete. He didn’t want the rumors, the speculation. It was common knowledge in the school that he was JK’s son, but as long he remained out of the limelight, nobody really bothered him. Now he’d have pressure, pressure to perform and win. He’d have people breathing down his neck. After all, how could the son of a legend fail? If the rumors ever got confirmed his life would be hell all the way until the show.

Rusty wanted to ignore Jenna and change the subject but his desire to get on her good side won out. Reluctantly he whispered back, “Okay, yeah I am. But don’t tell anyone okay? It’s supposed to be…a surprise. I don’t want anyone finding out ahead of time.”

Rusty could almost hear Jenna smile as she said “Your secret’s safe with me. But, I mean, wow, the Pro/Am? I didn’t even know you trained PKFR. You think you’ll win?”

“I hope so. It might be a little tough.”

“Why? You look strong enough.”

“Well, uh, it’s that…” Rusty was scrambling again. What could he say? He couldn’t admit he’d only been training for less than six months. It’d completely blow his cover. Stammering a little, Rusty decided to tell half the truth and said “It’s that…I’m not good with flips. And tricks and…stuff.”

“Well that’s not a problem, in the amateur division flips aren’t the deciding factor. Actually, I think someone won with only a back tuck and a palm spin a few years ago…but he could do triple kongs too…”

“Um, Jenna, see that’s the problem. I…I don’t know any.”

Jenna sounded confused. “Any what?”

Rusty swallowed hard. “Flips. I don’t know any flips or tricks.”

Jenna didn’t answer at the first. The silence of the study hall nearly killed Rusty. Finally she said quizzically, “…None?”

Now Rusty felt even worse. “No. I’ve never been to a gym.”

Then the silence dropped again. Rusty began to quietly smack his forehead with the palm of his hand, muttering “Why, why, why? Why’d I even speak…”

But then suddenly Jenna spun around in her chair, faced Rusty and said excitedly “I’ve got it, no problem! Come to the school’s gym today after classes. I’ll show you a few things.”

Rusty’s eyes bulged. He turned around and said “What? Re-really?”

Jenna beamed. Rusty nearly fainted. This was the first time he had seen her today. She had her blond hair in a long braid and her eyes practically sparkled. Damn she looked beautiful today. She said happily “Sure, I’m teaching a beginner class for kids today anyway. Part of my community service project for school. Just tag along.”

“Uh, okay, yeah! I’ll be there!” Rusty gushed, far too loud. The teacher shushed the pair and they had to turn back to their monitors abruptly. But Rusty kept grinning, all day long.

Classes seemed to crawl twice as slow as normal. Finally the bell rang and Rusty sprinted across the courtyard, dragging his bag and jacket behind him. He whipped around the corner and entered the gymnasium’s double front doors…just in time to see a ten year old flash past him, doing back handsprings the entire way. Rusty dropped his bag and jacket, then his jaw. This was the beginner class, for kids!?

In front of him was a scene from a kung fu movie. Nearly two dozen kids, probably aged six to twelve, were bouncing around the gymnastics hall like super balls. There was one on the trampoline, doing consecutive front tuck-back tuck combos. There were three on the balance beams doing walk-overs and jumping from one to the next without hesitation. And there was an entire herd of others on the spring floor, challenging each other to one-up the next, and pulling tricker combinations that Rusty had only seen in videos.

Jenna came running over from the locker rooms, dressed head to toe in blue and welcomed Rusty inside. Rusty stuttered for a moment and finally managed to say “Jenna, this…this is the beginners?”

Jenna chuckled to herself and turned Rusty in the direction of the room adjacent to the main hall, a room padded door to door with soft mats while mirrors lined the walls. The room was littered with soft, child size obstacles and about half a dozen three to six year old kids. “No Matchstick, THAT’S the beginner class. In here is the advanced city youth league. They use the gym same time as us. Come on, we’re gonna get started soon.”

Rusty was both relieved and a little embarrassed. He was glad to be learning but did it have to be with practically toddlers?

Of course, Rusty soon realized the truth: he wasn’t even ready for this. Half way through the class he had sweat beads on every inch of his skin, not from exertion, but from frustration and failure. He could barely perform a proper cartwheel and he was banging his head against the mats every time he tried to do a back handspring. He was pretty sure he even heard one of the four-year-olds snickering when he crashed into a pile of padded vault boxes.

By the end of the class Rusty was tired, annoyed, and his head ached from falling. This was a lot tougher than it looked. The red headed teen stripped off his shirt and sat dejected in the corner, watching as Jenna said goodbye to the kids and walked back into the room. She could see how Rusty felt and remained calm, taking a seat next to him on the mats. She waited a moment, thinking of how sad yet cute Rusty looked when he was angry, his long hair hiding his face.

Finally she said, “Don’t get mad Rus. It was your first day, you actually did a lot better than I expected.”

“Gee, thanks Jen.”

“I’m serious, you pretty much have back handsprings down, they’re just a little crooked. And your cartwheels are extended and in line. With a little more practice you could probably get aerials by the end of the month.”

“Not exactly high-class stuff for the Pro/Am.”

“Better than nothing.”

“How can you always stay so happy, Jenna?”

“Just an optimist I guess.”

“Yeah, but at this rate it won’t matter. I mean this is tough stuff, it’s almost as tough as the first time I trained with Kir…ra…oh no…” Rusty jumped to this feet, streaking across the mats and gathering up his belongings. He kept repeating to himself, “No-no-no-no-"

Jenna was shocked and stood up slowly saying “What, what is it? You forget something?”

Rusty stuffed his sweaty shirt into his backpack and said “Yeah, I did. Today I’m supposed to meet with Ow, I mean, my personal trainer. Today was a big day. Damn damn damn, I’m gonna be late…” Rusty rushed out the door and yelled behind him as he left, “Thanks Jenna, I’ll be back soon!”

Rusty ran the entire ten blocks to the starting point, the front of a condemned office building on Third. Why, why did Jenna have to invite him today? Why today of all days! Arriving at the meet up point huffing and half dead, Rusty was frightened to see no one there. Had they left without him? If they did he’d never hear the end of it, this was the first time he had been invited along for a Trace. But then he heard the faintest of thuds from someone landing behind him, followed by the vibration of someone landing but no sound. Only one man could land without a single sound.

“I’m sorry I’m late guys. Got held back for talking in study hall.”

“What have I told you about being silent at all times?” Kirra said jokingly, nudging Rusty on the shoulder.

Owen was a little less jovial and said in his characteristically stern manner, “Poor excuse for being late.”

“I know, I know,” Rusty said, “But I’m already warmed up so we can get going right away.”

Kirra held up a hand and said “Slow down Firefoot, first let’s go over what we’re doing today one last time, okay? I don’t want you getting mixed up halfway through.”

“Fine, okay.”

Kirra cleared her throat. “Today we’re going Tracing. This is your first time so listen close. A Trace is when we cut an unplanned line across the city. We run from one destination to the next, always staying as straight and true to speed and power as we can. Today’s Trace is going to be 3 miles. It’s going to be a little rough so try to keep up. You sure you’re ready?”

“Yes, yes, I’m ready.”

Owen cracked his knuckles and pointed into the entrance of the condemned building. “Let’s go.” And then they were off and running.

It wasn’t so bad at first. Rusty was thoroughly warmed up and kept within a few yards of Kirra and Owen, vaulting over piles of debris and swinging on door frames as they sliced their way silently up and across the building’s floors. When they reached the third floor the trio leaped through an open window and onto a fire escape outside, popping over the escape’s railing and dropping down level by level without hesitation. Within seconds they were back on ground level and tearing through a back alley, dodging over turned dumpsters and tic-tacing off the brick and cement walls of the buildings that surrounded them.

Kirra and Owen kept the pace constant. By the second mile, Rusty was starting to feel the exhaustive effects of his gymnastics class a mere hour before. They had left the former business district and its empty buildings behind and were now Tracing a path across an outdoor mall, popping over benches and using bike racks as launch pads to clear multi-tiered flower beds. Pedestrians barely gave them a second look though some wondered why they never once stopped.

Rusty occupied the slower running stretches by analyzing Kirra and Owen’s opposing styles in his mind. Kirra tended to be more flexible, more nimble, bouncing from step to step, and she used this to her advantage. Especially during climb ups, where she would use a unique swing foot method to twist her body up and overcome the relative lack of strength in her arms. Owen on the other hand was simply a beast. Despite his age he seemed as powerful as a raging bull, literally muscling through obstacles with perfectly controlled brute force. He seemed to plow through crowded sections of obstacles, barely touching the ground, moving ever forward like an arrow, never wavering. His breathing remained constant and cool, his running gait solid. It was truly an awe-inspiring sight. 

By mile three Rusty was sucking air hard and starting to trail behind. His soaking wet clothes clung to his skin and the frosty chill of the late November air was creeping into his bones. His fingertips were nearly numb and he could feel his teeth wanting to chatter. Kirra and Owen hadn’t looked back once the entire time. And now they were hitting the heavily congested Old City section, an upscale yet crowded area full of 20th century architecture that was clumped oppressively close together. That meant lots of climbing and dropping which sapped what little strength Rusty had left in his arms. But still he soldiered ahead, not wanting to give Owen or Kirra any more reason to lecture him about his training than they already had.

It was near the end of the final mile that Rusty finally realized…he didn’t know the ending point. Owen had never mentioned it. Now worried that his teachers would pick somewhere ungodly difficult to get to, Rusty started to zone out. The trio hit a long straight away and Rusty became lost in his mind, trying to think of all the places Kirra and Owen could pick. The Fountain? The Drop-In? Cat Square? Where would they go…?

“Rusty, damn it! LOOK UP!”

Kirra’s shrill voice finally cut through the haze and Rusty’s eyes snapped to attention. There was a low stone pillar before him, then a gap, then a brick wall. They were all closing in fast. Without thinking, without knowing, only sensing, Rusty planted his foot on top of the pillar and launched himself forward. He seemed to hang for minutes, suspended like a marionette, watching the wall draw closer. Only the top edge filled his view. The only sound he heard was the air rushing around him. As his shoes tapped solid wall and his numb fingers touched rough brick he instinctively grabbed hold and eased in, his body accepting the huge Cat Leap without question. His muscles worked on autopilot and he hauled himself up on top of the wall in one graceful, swinging motion. He stood atop the wall and breathed out, letting the tension relax. Then he finally realized that Owen and Kirra had stopped. He also realized where he was.

On top of the wall he failed to scale dozens of times, the one he had nearly broken his tailbone falling from right before he went back to school. He had done it. And he didn’t know it was happening. Stunned and speechless, Rusty just stood where he was, staring forward. Kirra was jumping up and down, whistling incessantly and clapping her hands. Owen was, of course, calm but…smiling. A real, honest to goodness smile that seemed to stretch the only muscles in his body that never got a workout.

Stepping forward and placing a rough, massive hand on Rusty’s shoulder, Owen said, “Congratulations. That is the unthinking movement I was talking about. Just letting it happen, a mind that only works in the here and now.” Rusty’s stunned face broke open into the biggest smile he’d ever had, a big goofy grin. He still couldn’t speak he was so happy and shocked. Owen continued, saying “Now, I think, we can-”

But Owen was cut short by the television billboard high above him. The soft holiday music that had been playing suddenly clicked off and a commercial began playing. A commercial for the New year’s Pro/Am competition. Not unusual really, they had been playing them for over a week now. But this commercial was different. Because it started with an old video clip…of James “JK” Klein.

The commercial’s announcer blared, “Ten years ago…The Tragedy. JK, one of the most prolific Runners of all time, passed away at 28, at the peak of his career. Since then, the world has been awaiting the next great Runner, someone to carry on his legacy and bring PKFR to a whole new level. This year, at The City Pro/Am, that person might just step forward.” A picture of Rusty flashed on screen.

“Russell ‘Rusty’ Klein, the only son of the Legend, JK, will be Running in competition for the first time EVER! Where has he been? Training? Perfecting? Will he compare to, even EXCEED his father? Only one way to find out! Tune in your holo-tube to Pay-Per-View or watch the event LIVE at The City ‘PKFR’ High School, January 1st, New Year’s Day! Don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to see Andre Levy, Queen Katrina, and Rusty Klein, LIVE!”

The commercial ended and holiday music again filled the air, an instrumental version of Silent Night. Rusty, who had been staring at the billboard screen the entire time, slowly brought his head back down. Owen had not budged or turned around to view the screen. But he’d heard everything. Kirra stared at Rusty, horrified. His shaved head bowed low, Owen quietly said, “Is that true Rusty?”

Frightened beyond measure, Rusty squeaked “Ye-Yes.”

Owen breathed in deeply through his nose, held it for only a moment, and then breathed out heavily through his mouth. Without moving at all, without picking up his head, Owen said plainly “Leave.”

Rusty stepped back, unsure what he meant, unsure what to do. “Wha-What? Leave?”

“Don’t make me repeat myself. Leave here now. Go home. Your training is finished.”

“Wait. Wait, Owen. Owen please.”

Owen finally lifted his head, his steel colored eyes locking onto Rusty’s small form. He seemed to pierce straight through Rusty’s soul and into the center of the Earth. Rusty could see a small vein begin to throb at the edge of his eye near his scar. Barely containing the fury in his voice, Owen said “I told you. I told you, Parkour is real. Not a game. This training…is my life. I trusted you with it. And you would use it, pervert it, into that…?”

“…Owen.”

“You’ll never understand. Go Rusty. Run. Because if you don’t, I swear to god, I will kill you where you stand.” His voice was cold. There was not a hint of exaggeration on the old man’s tongue. He meant every word.

Rusty began to breathe fast, too fast. He was shaking uncontrollably. He managed to tear his eyes away from Owen’s and looked to Kirra, asking pathetically “Kirra, please. I, I just…please.” But Kirra merely looked away, not even catching his gaze. There was no safety net this time. Rusty looked back at Owen one last time, shivering and stepping backwards as he did.

And then he ran, as fast and as far as he could.

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Written by Janine   
Monday, 30 November 2009 04:22
Last Updated on Monday, 13 December 2010 21:44