Heart Sutra
Saturday, April 15, 2006

Inara's reaction to Jubel Early's visit during Objects in Space


This plot bunny just wouldn’t stop thumpering around in my head so I finally got around to writing it and then finally got around to posting it because, hey, how can you improve characterization if you don’t get feedback, eh? I would greatly appreciate any comments, especially about my characterization of Inara because I just feel that she eluded me and next time I’d like to do better. Thanks!

Disclaimer: Obviously, it’s not mine and I make no claims to it.

For all her education Inara Serra was left without words when she woke to the sound of her shuttle door sliding open in the middle of the night and opened her eyes to find Simon standing there, hands splayed and arms held out from his sides. Before she could ask him what had happened (well-bred gentlemen of the Core did not invite themselves into the shuttles of sleeping women, especially not those as socially shy as Simon) there was a large dark-skinned man in a lurid red space suit with a shining gun trained on her. Despite the instruction in self-defense that she had received during her time at the Temple, there was little she could do while wrapped up in her coverlet. The bounty hunter had introduced himself politely and calmly explained that he was here to search for River Tam (Inara’s eyes shot briefly to Simon who looked ashamed to be standing there) and would she kindly pull the blankets down so he could be certain that she didn’t have a weapon hidden? He smirked when she did so and said there would be no need for her to strip given her attire. He then proceeded to stare at her for a full minute. Inara did her best to read him while maintaining a subservient air he would find non-threatening. It wasn’t difficult to cultivate an air of vulnerability while lying in her bed, Simon held hostage, watching the madman deliberately stroking his pistol. His search of the shuttle was methodical, thorough and brief and for this, she was glad. It was obvious that there was something very, very off about this man. Even someone as dense as the doctor could feel it, his stiff posture revealing his unease not just with the situation, but the individual. This was a man who was capable of great evil, unprovoked even, given the right circumstances. Rung tse fwo tzou bao yo wuo muhn. Her attempt to diffuse the situation failed (she never would have been able to look Simon or River in the eye again if she hadn’t tried) and for her pains left her with a bloody lip. As she heard the shuttle door lock into place she tongued the cut, trying to gauge how deep it was and if there was a possibility it would leave a scar and – O, Merciful Buddha, what had this man already done to Kaylee or Mal? Inara pushed herself off of the bed, grabbed a stiletto from where it was strapped under the frame and fell before her shrine. She took a deep breath to steady her shaking hands and pulled out a stick of incense, intent on praying, when River’s voice came suddenly over the com systems – even the ones outside her shuttle, making it seem as though the girl’s voice was reverberating from the metal walls. From the very ship itself. “You’re wrong, Early.” Inara’s head snapped toward the shuttle radio and she placed the incense on the altar, rising and sweeping aside the curtain that concealed the flight controls. “Wrong about River. River's not on the ship. They didn't want her here, but she couldn't make herself leave, so she melted. Melted away. They didn't know she could do that...but she did.” Melted away? Inara frowned and turned back to the altar. River must be speaking with the bounty hunter. Melted away? Apparently Early didn’t know either, for little River clarified just a few seconds later: ”I'm not on the ship. I'm in the ship. I am the ship. River's gone. You're talking to Serenity. And Early... Serenity is very unhappy.” Inara’s hand froze, suspended, the stick of incense halfway to its holder. While moments before she would have believed it impossible for a seventeen year-old girl, unique as she might have been, to turn into a space ship, she wouldn’t have thought it possible for an interloper to somehow manifest himself on a ship in the middle of space without being detected. And yet here she was. This had to be some odd, awful nightmare from which she was going to wake up any second, safe and sound. Was it possible that River was the ship? Never before had Inara heard the girl sound so sure, so certain . . . so sane. Kaylee had mentioned once that River had duped Badger with a flawless accent, but now? Sane and speaking as though she wasthe ship? Inara lifted her eyes to gaze at the Buddha and the Heart Sutra came unbidden to her mind. “Form is emptiness, emptiness is also form,” she murmured, lighting the stick and carefully placing it so that the ash would not fall to the floor. She arranged one of her pillows and assumed the full-lotus position, imagining for a split second what it would be like to sink into the ship that Mal loved so much. “In emptiness, there is no body, no feeling, no thought, no will, no consciousness.” It wasn’t possible that the girl had attained Nirvana even if she had melded with the ship. She might have changed her form, but evidently her mind and ego was still intact. She was still talking over the com, talking to “Mister Jubel Early . . .bounty hunter.” Then again, it wasn’t possible for Mr. Jubel Early to be on Serenity. “There are no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind,” Inara continued to recite the sutra, forcing her muscles to relax. Her mind! River obviously still had her mind, damaged as it may be – where would it reside in a space ship? The bridge? There certainly wasn’t enough electrical wiring to satisfactorily simulate the human brain, but it came the closest. And a ship might not have eyes, but it had sensors, nor ears, but it had detectors, nor nose, but she wouldn’t be surprised if the ship itself didn’t cringe just a bit when Jayne went more than a few days without a shower as he was wont to do and- “There is no seeing,” she clenched her teeth to crush the frantic thoughts of sensors and detectors and the engine room and Jayne. “no hearing, no smelling, no tasting, no touching, no imagining. There is nothing seen, nor heard, nor smelled, nor tasted, nor touched, nor imagined.” Inara breathed in, and then out, taking the time to feel her chest expand and contract and let her fear and confusion dissipate with each breath. Inhale. Exhale. “Since there is no obscuration of mind, there is no fear,” she whispered as River listed the symptoms of Jubel’s sickness. She closed her eyes and imagined the young girl merging with ship. Form was nothing but illusion, after all. “Gaté.” “It’s very interesting . . .all these buttons,” River’s tone had switched, jolting Inara from her meditation. Buttons!? Inara’s eyes snapped open and she felt her jaw drop a bit. After a few more moments during which she would have given almost anything to see Jubel’s face, River’s tone changed from playful to achingly tragic. “I'll be your bounty, Jubel Early. And I’ll just fade away.” Inara could hear the tears in the girl’s voice and felt ill to her stomach. Her spine and shoulders slumped as it occurred to her what Simon must be going through. “Gaté, gate” she began as she tried to resume the correct posture. Her head felt heavy and she prayed that this would all somehow, miraculously end well. For River. For all of them. But especially River. That the words would not apply to her in any secular sense. That Mal would fix this and somehow everything would be alright. And when the gunshot went off she barely flinched and continued to chant,” paragaté, parasamgaté. Bodhi! Svaha!” On the one hundred and eighteenth time, Mal opened the door.

Rung Tse Fwo Tzou Bao Yo Wuo Muhn: Merciful Buddha protect us Gaté, gaté, paragaté, parasamgaté. Bodhi! Svaha!: Gone, gone, gone over, gone fully over. Awakened! So be it!


Saturday, April 15, 2006 8:11 PM


Very good, i really like your style.

Real Worlding....not for everyone.

Saturday, April 15, 2006 9:50 PM


Well now....this a might good fic here, Zisker. Generally in-character (some slight out of sync vibe coming from her attempt to figure our River's gameplan) and I really liked Inara's attempt to meditate on the Heart Sutra to encourage positive thoughts on River's behaviour and actions during "Objects in Space." Mainly cuz I was reminded of the Bene Gesserit "Fear is the mindkiller..." mantra from the Dune series;)


Monday, April 17, 2006 5:16 PM


The only thing that didn't mesh was in paragraphs four, five and seven (after the disclaimer and at the start of the story). Inara has the incense intent on praying in paragraph four. Then she puts the incense down, rises and moves the curtain to the console. Then in paragraph seven she is frozen with a stick of incense half way to its holder.

Other than that minor point I really enjoyed reading more from Inara's point of view. Well written!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006 6:24 AM


interesting take on how inara might be feeling during OiS. very fitting that she would meditate.


Monday, April 9, 2007 3:49 AM


* applauds whole-heartedly *

I like how you wove together her reaction to the lines in OiS, choosing just the right moments to expound upon. Also, good work in slowly emerging her in the meditation, first easily distracted, then to the point of being so fervent that the gunshot hardly phased her. I like how it ends with Mal opening the door.


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The Nightmare
Sometimes Simon has trouble sleeping. One-shot.

Heart Sutra
Inara's reaction to Jubel Early's visit during Objects in Space