I. Yoda & Dooku
The creche was visited regularly. Some of the potentials came as teachers, others as simple observers, and their presence was a perennial source of excitement for most of the young Initiates: Who was arrived today? What were their specialties, their areas of expertise? Did they appear to be scouting anyone in particular? Who among them—if anyone—might be chosen this day as the Temple’s newest Padawan Learner?
Dooku, however, was supremely unconcerned. He did not trade in foolish gossip and kept his emotions, his counsel, to himself. Chitter-chatter was a mark of insecurity, and insecurity was a mark of inferiority. Dooku was not an inferior being.
“Begin!” the Saber-Master barked.
Dooku ignited his lightsaber and raised it in symbolic salute. He was neither the youngest unapprenticed Initiate in the creche, nor was he the oldest. Four planetary rotations prior, though, he’d begun his growth spurt, and now he stood head and shoulders taller than any other Initiate of his species. His stature distinguished him…
…and so did his saberwork.
One pass, and then a second. He had disarmed his opponent. When another stepped up to replace her, Dooku disarmed her as well on the first pass.
This was too easy. His mind began to wander. Master Kesh, a whirling dervish with a saberstaff, was here for the tournament today. So was Master Tsuval’ii, a pioneering battlefield technician. Even Master Alma, famed for Soresu—
His next opponent didn’t merit the appellation. Suu was young and small, just graduated from the nursery, and the blade of his training saber wavered and shook. He didn’t have a chance; Dooku felt almost sorry for him—
A dead weight landed high on Dooku’s back. Dooku staggered forward, his spine bent practically in half, Suu’s blade missing the bridge of Dooku’s nose by mere millimeters. He stumbled, nearly losing his footing altogether. He recovered quickly, however, and on the next pass, the tip of his training saber touched the robes over Suu’s heart.
Only after he was declared tournament champion did Grand Master Yoda dismount.
Dooku was apprenticed.
II. Dooku & Qui-Gon Jinn
The rest of the Initiates were busy with some other event today. A saber tournament, most likely, a competition for his eager-to-please peers.
Qui-Gon Jinn wasn’t interested in either tournaments or performing for the pleasure of prospective Masters. He preferred rather to remain in the Temple gardens, seated in meditation beneath the uneti tree, eyes closed. His ears, though, were open to birdsong and buzzing insects. And his nostrils were filled with the fragrance of flowers and new spring leaves.
A Force-blind being might call it peace and quiet, but to a Force-sensitive like Qui-Gon, the universe positively throbbed and pulsed with life. The gardens, the Temple, the Coruscanti ecumenopolis beyond the Temple walls, each and every living thing, moving with purpose, conflict, and cooperation, a majestic pattern of interwoven energies, exquisite, splendid, and Qui-Gon, forever and ever seeking his place within it, was prepared to learn—
“Initiate Jinn. You are not at the tournament.”
Qui-Gon opened his eyes. Before him stood Jedi Master Dooku. He rose and bowed humbly. “No, I am not.”
“You are where you are supposed to be,” Dooku said. “As, it seems, am I.”
Qui-Gon bowed again. This was as the Force willed, and he understood without having been told: He was apprenticed.
III. Qui-Gon Jinn & Obi-Wan Kenobi
Obi-Wan slammed his fist into the unyielding trunk of the uneti tree, so hard that the skin of his knuckles split and bled. He’d been eliminated in the first round of the saber tournament along with three other Initiates who had never even competed in a tournament before.
Not that he cared. He was already the oldest human Initiate in the history of the Order. At this rate, he’d be the first Initiate doomed never to be apprenticed in spite of a sincere desire to advance.
All of the other Masters who had visited the creche in Obi-Wan’s living memory were already spoken for. So Obi-Wan figured he could forget being trained by a Master bladesbeing. Hells, not even Master Archivist Jocasta Nu wanted for Padawan Learner these days—and Obi-Wan thought the might be happy burying himself in the Jedi Archives and never resurfacing again if that also meant never again having to face the faux-compassionate faces of his more fortunate, already-apprenticed peers.
“Who’s left to train me then?!” Obi-Wan asked to the uneti tree furiously, tears leaking out of the corners of his eyes.
“Well, there is me,” the uneti tree replied.
Obi-Wan jolted and hurriedly swiped at his stray tears with the back of his hand. Since the hand was also the same one he’d punched the tree trunk with, he managed to smear blood in addition to the tears across his face.
“I never enjoyed the tournaments. I used to come here instead. It’s still my favorite spot anywhere on the Temple grounds,” the human who was definitely not an uneti tree said.
“M-Master Jinn.” Obi-Wan bowed awkwardly. He recognized Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, of course—he was famous (read: infamous) as a loner and a mystic, and he was often in semi-open conflict with the High Council. Perhaps, Obi-Wan realized, it made sense that a rebel Master would take especial interest in an outcast Initiate.
“I have never aspired to train an apprentice,” Master Jinn continued, fishing out a clean cloth from a pouch hanging from his utility belt, “but today, the Living Force guided me here to you, young Obi-Wan Kenobi. Do you feel it too? Will you become my Padawan Learner?”
“I-I…it would be an honor.” Obi-Wan took the proffered cloth and cleaned his face. He bowed, more properly this time, or so he hoped, his heart in his throat. At last, at long, long last, he was apprenticed.
IV. Obi-Wan Kenobi & Anakin Skywalker
“Screw you into a condenser coil!” Anakin shouted at the giggling Initiates and stormed off.
He was angry, and rightfully so! As if he needed yet another reminder that he was too old to begin the training, now he was being told that he hadn’t even been apprenticed properly. They’d mocked him, dammit, mocked him! Masters are guided by the Force in the choosing their apprentices, they’d said. But the Council foisted you on him! Knight Kenobi never chose you, never wanted you! You’re a burden, and the way you’ve been made a Padawan Learner is unnatural, and that means you’re unnatural!
“Anakin, where are you going?” a voice called out behind him.
Master Kenobi. Anakin pretended not to hear.
“Anakin, I know what they told you, and it’s not true. I chose you.”
“You…” Anakin skidded to a halt in spite of himself.
“The truth is the opposite of what you’ve been told. The Council would have assigned you to a different Master, but I argued,” Obi-Wan continued. “I chose to train you because I wanted to train you. But if you would prefer a more experienced, more prestigious Master than myself, perhaps I could—”
Anakin threw his arms around Obi-Wan before he could finish his sentence. Obi-Wan stiffened for a moment in surprise, but then he relaxed and reciprocated the embrace. Warm feelings of gratitude washed through them both.
“I am apprenticed,” Anakin said.