1 – In The Beginning

"In the beginning, there was null and void," the Rabbi intoned.

Declan Reed sat in the back and stared out at the altar, and at the backs of the heads of much of the congregation of Temple Beth Shalom, the first synagogue on Lafa II. All he could think of was: what am I doing here?

Much of the congregation intoned, in Hebrew, "B'rehshiht." In the beginning. Same thing. Declan didn't know Hebrew, but he did understand that much. There was an awful lot of repetition, it seemed.

He pulled out a Siddur – a prayer book – from the back of the pew in front of him. It took him a moment to realize that it was written from right to left. Even the English and Calafan portions; at least the verbiage was correctly going left to right, but the pages were numbered from right to left. He thumbed through it, looking at the Hebrew, and the English and Calafan transliterations.

He knew no one in the congregation. There were still not a lot of humans on Lafa II, but he'd gone away for Oxford, and then he'd been busy caring for his elderly, well, there was no good English word for Melissa Madden and Leonora Digiorno. After his own biological parents had died, he had been entrusted with caring for those two elderly women. But they had passed, too.

Some of his half- and step-siblings, like Joss Beckett and Neil Digiorno-Madden, still lived on Lafa II. Half-sister Marie Patrice Beckett was on Andoria, which wasn't too far away. Tommy Digiorno-Madden was serving in Starfleet, under a new captain, some fellow named Robau. But none of them were with him. For this particular act, he was on his own.

A Calafan sitting nearby, wearing a yarmulke and a tallis, elbowed him, and he realized he needed to rise with everyone else. He looked over the Calafan's shoulder, but the guy wasn't using a paper Siddur. Instead, the reading was on his PADD. And it was in Calafan script, which Declan had trouble reading even at the best of times. But at least he could catch the page number. The backwards prayer book tripped him up again, but he got to the right page in time for the English repetition of the prayer, the Shema. "Hear, oh Israel," he said out loud, with the rest of the congregation, in the posh English accent he'd picked up during his years at Oxford as an artist in residence, "the lord, our God; the lord is one."

Maybe a half an hour later, the service was over. People hugged and kissed and shook hands. The Calafan turned to him and stuck out his right hand. "Shabbat Shalom," he said to Declan.

"Uh, I'm terribly sorry," Declan replied, "but I don't know what that means."

"It means, have a peaceful Sabbath," said the Calafan.

"Oh, well then I wish that to you as well."

"You're new," commented the Calafan.

"Yes, I, uh," Declan hesitated, but only for a split second, "I, I've met a wonderful woman. And whilst she does not require it, I, I still wish to convert to her faith, prior to marrying her."

"Let me introduce you to our rabbi."