Jedi Temple, Coruscant, 23 BBY
Plo Koon strode through the Jedi Temple, nodding respectfully to those he passed. The Kel Dor moved purposefully as he approached the Academy Wing of the temple, somewhere that he had visited several times over the years.
Master Coleman Kcaj greeted him at the entrance with a short bow and a smile. "Master Plo Koon, good to see you intact. Here to observe the Clawmouse Clan?"
"You know me too well, Master Kcaj," Plo replied. Ever since he had delivered young Ahsoka Tano to the Temple, he had made a point of checking in on her every once in a while to see how she was faring. On occasion that involved speaking to her personally, but most of the time it involved watching some of her lessons from a distance. It would not do for the rest of the creche to believe that she was getting any special treatment.
"They're in the middle of saber practice right now," Master Kcaj said, turning to lead the way to one of the training arenas. Plo followed, tracing the corridors that he himself had run through so many times as a youngling decades ago.
As they approached the training hall, he could begin to make out the sounds of lightsabers clashing along with several excited voices. If he remembered correctly, the annual Apprentice Tournament was going to begin soon, and Ahsoka's clan had just reached the age at which they were allowed to compete. Their saber practice periods would be taken up with live spars as the younglings gained valuable experience in order to impress the tournament's spectators and hopefully avoid relegation to the Service Corps.
His expectations were proved correct when he and Coleman entered the hall. Twelve younglings were squaring off with each other in pairs, sabers flashing back and forth with varying degrees of skill. Off to the side, he could make out the distinctive form of Battlemaster Cin Drallig watching all of the duels with a practiced eye alongside several Temple Guards.
Ahsoka, as the only Togruta in her clan, was very easy to spot. She was currently dueling one of the two Nautolan younglings, and very well from what he could see. He could easily identify the competent, if slightly sloppy, Form V bladework that the Togruta was using, and it was clearly serving her well as her power-based strikes forced her opponent into disadvantageous positions. As he watched, the young Nautolan's desperate return strike was batted aside easily, and Ahsoka struck with a quick slash across his torso.
"Match!" the observing guardsman called out. "Initiate Tano is the victor."
Plo watched approvingly as Ahsoka helped her opponent to his feet, sharing a few words with him before they moved over to the sidelines to watch the rest of the matches. It was comforting to see that the little Togruta he had saved so many years ago was making such powerful strides down the path of the Jedi.
"So, Master Plo, what do you think?" Master Kcaj asked, a proud smile on his upside-down face as he watched his younglings' success. The Ongree was the Master that oversaw a majority of the Clawmouse clan's teachings, and as Plo was on the Jedi High Council he greatly valued his advice and opinions.
"Initiate Tano has grown well," the Kel Dor answered. "All of the younglings have. I am certain that they will all make fine Padawans in the years to come. Their future Masters will be truly fortunate to have them."
The Ongree Master gave him an amused look. "'Future Masters,' hm? I thought you were planning to take on young Ahsoka yourself, Master Plo."
"I merely wish to ensure that Initiate Tano is performing well, Master Kcaj," Plo replied gravely, though he couldn't hide the amusement from his own voice. His assumption was a logical one, especially since he had observed her particular clan multiple times over the years. "I do not believe that she would obtain her full potential under my tutelage. Her destiny lies with another."
As he said this, his gaze wandered over to where another pair of initiates, a human and a Zabrak, were trading blows. The Zabrak, a young, tan-skinned male with a trio of stubby horns along his brow, was displaying a very strong Form III defense, but it was the human, a lighter-skinned boy sporting a mop of shoulder-length jet-black hair, that caught Plo's attention. Like Ahsoka, he was using Form V's power-based strikes to try and batter down his opponent's defenses, but that was where the similarities ended. Instead, the initiate was spinning and shuffling all around his sparring partner, using acrobatic movements in an attempt to mask his strikes. As Plo watched, the young human dove under the Zabrak's saber, turning the fall into a spinning leg sweep followed by a swing from his own blade. His opponent was barely able to block the both of them before dodging a third attack. The Kel Dor was reminded of the leaps and kicks that were taught in Form IV, but he could barely detect any Force usage from the human, far from the amount that even the least experienced Ataru user tended to use for their movements. No, this was pure athleticism that was fueling the boy's actions, nothing more.
"That human over there," Plo said, gaining Master Kcaj's attention, "What's his name?"
The Ongree's eyestalks followed his gaze, and smiled as he spotted the initiate in question. "That one is Luat Ceema, from Alderaan, and the one he's dueling is Jaylen Kos. Why do you ask?"
"He is different," the Kel Dor replied. "I can barely sense the Force from him, yet he moves with such assuredness."
Coleman remained silent for a moment as the duel between Luat and Jaylen continued, with the Zabrak successfully countering several of the human's attacks and scoring a blow across his shoulder. "When Initiate Ceema was tested for Force potential," he finally said, "It was discovered that his midi-chlorian count was only 7,100."
Plo's eyes widened beneath his mask. "7,100? That is barely enough to even be considered for training."
"And it shows," Kcaj continued. "He has had a lot of trouble connecting with the Force, and even now isn't able to use it to the degree as the rest of his peers. Even though he has an affinity towards sensing the future, the most that he gets even at the best of times is a jumble of words that no one can make sense of."
"Yet he has not given up," Plo commented, impressed. Far too many younglings had simply given up on the Order after encountering similar issues. Failure was a bitter pill to swallow, especially at such a young age, and to watch your peers surpass you every day would be even worse. For young Luat to have passed his Initiate Trials with such a disadvantage spoke volumes of his dedication and persistence.
"More than that, he's compensated admirably," his fellow Master said, gesturing that they turn their focus back to the duel. And they did so just in time to see Luat recklessly leap towards Jaylen, who smirked and readied himself to bat the human out of the air. Luat's next move, though, was what caught Plo by surprise. With a push of his hand, the human fired off a Force Push which completely negated his forward movement. The push itself impacted Jaylen's feet, knocking them out from under him and sending him flailing to the ground. Luat landed easily, batting aside Jaylen's lightsaber in a flash of green and lunging forward to place his saber at the Zabrak's throat.
"Match!" Master Drallig called out. "Initiate Ceema is the winner. Well fought to the both of you."
As Luat pulled Jaylen to his feet, Kcaj turned to his fellow Master. "You saw it, didn't you?" he asked. "Even his Force Pushes are weak compared to most, but he's learned to apply them intelligently and creatively in exchange."
"Indeed," Plo replied, absently leaning on the railing as he watched the duo walk over to Ahsoka, who greeted them enthusiastically. "His saber form is unique. Another compensation for his disadvantages, correct?"
"Yes, they're an adaptation of the standard Ataru forms," the clan leader replied. "The creativity and intelligence of Alderaanians have not passed young Luat by in his time here."
"So they have not," Plo said, before checking his chrono. "I am afraid that I must be on my way, Master Kcaj. The High Council will be meeting soon, and it would not do to be late."
"Duty calls, as it always does," the Ongree agreed, giving the Kel Dor a light bow. "A pleasure as always, Master Koon. May the Force be with you."
"And with you," Plo replied as he walked off towards the Council chambers.
Several hours later, Plo exited the High Council chambers feeling exhausted. The new Separatist movement was spreading unrest throughout the galaxy, and tensions were inexorably reaching a boiling point. The Jedi Order was rapidly being stretched thin trying to mitigate some of the riots and other conflicts that were springing up thanks to former Master Dooku's rhetoric, with those Knights and Masters specializing in diplomacy and negotiation being in especially high demand. Several members of the Council were out on missions and had to report in through Holo, and he himself was tasked with dealing with a strike turned bloody on Kuat.
As he made his way towards his quarters, a twinge from the Force stopped him just in time to avoid being bowled over by a young Jaylen Kos running past him at full speed. To his credit, the Zabrak was quick to turn and apologize, only to be stunned upon realizing who it was he had almost run into. "M-Master Koon! My apologies, Master!"
Plo's response was interrupted by the two more pairs of feet as Luat and Ahsoka rounded the corner at a run.
"Dammit Jaylen! Give me back R3's repair torch right now or I swear to—oh, uh… hi Master Koon." Luat's yelling quickly came to a stop as well. To the Kel Dor's amusement, both male Initiates paled as they stammered out apologies, while Ahsoka merely shook her head in an exasperated fondness that he himself was familiar with from dealing with the antics of his own former Padawans.
"Apology accepted, younglings," he said, cutting off Luat and Jaylen before turning to Ahsoka. "Hello, Little 'Soka."
"Hey Master Plo," the Togruta replied, casually ignoring the shock on her friends' faces. "It's good to see you. Have you been on any interesting missions lately?"
"Do not forget your etiquette lessons, young one." If he had a human-like mouth under his mask, the Kel Dor would have been sporting an amused smile. "I believe that there are introductions that need to be made first."
Ahsoka nodded hurriedly. "These are Jaylen Kos and Luat Ceema. Guys, you already know about Master Plo, right?"
"Wait," Jaylen said, "How the kriff do you know Master Koon?"
The Master in question moved to interject (such language was unbecoming of a Jedi after all) when he realized that the younglings had gotten so distracted by the new information that they had managed to forget that he was standing right in front of them.
"Master Plo was the one who brought me to the Temple, Jaylen," Ahsoka replied exasperatedly. "He checks in sometimes to catch up. I told you both this years ago, why are you so surprised?"
"You never said that you and him talked!" Luat protested, before adopting a curious expression. "By the way, does that mean he knows about the time you—OW!" his head snapped backwards from a small Force Push and he glared at the now-blushing Togruta.
"You'd better not be talking about that time, Luat," Ahsoka growled, "Unless you want me to tell him about a certain incident." Her scowl then turned into a grin. "Right, Lulu?"
Luat paled and Jaylen snickered, all three of them still forgetting about Plo's presence. "You wouldn't."
Ahsoka's smirk widened, and Luat groaned in dismay. "Force me, you would."
"As amusing as I'm sure these stories are," Plo began, watching as all three younglings jumped and blushed upon remembering he was still standing in front of them, "I am afraid they will have to wait for another time. I have been assigned a mission by the Council, so I must be going."
"It was a pleasure to meet you, Initiates Luat and Jaylen. May the Force be with you." Plo inclined his head to them, waiting until they offered bows and replies of their own before turning and walking off to where his fighter was docked.
Even as he left he could hear Luat saying "And where are you going Jaylen? Don't think I forgot about that repair torch! Hey, get back here!"
"Luat Ceema and Jaylen Kos…" the Jedi Master mused to himself. "What an interesting pair of friends you have found for yourself, Little 'Soka."
And so begins a labor of both love and nostalgia. This story was inspired by a Clone Wars CYOA book titled Decide Your Destiny: The Way of the Jedi, which I read as a kid, as well as the Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV series. Both of them had a very strong influence on me as I grew up, and I figured that for an amateur writer like myself there isn't a much better way to honor them than with a fic like this one. Please note that I will be drawing on a lot of the Legends continuity for this story, so if that's not something you like then, well, I can't really help you there.
Feel free to leave a review if you've got any constructive feedback. I'm still new to this whole fic-writing thing, so I'm always looking for improvements. Until then, though, see you all in the next chapter and, as always, watch out for that friendly fire.