In Principle, In Practice
Disclaimer: Firefly is the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. Characters used without permission and not for profit.
In principle, she still thinks of Unification as a good idea; one look at the Rim Worlds, saddled - sometimes literally - with techniques that were outmoded and ancient even before the One Small Step, one look at the quality of life in the Core, and the benefits are plain for any to see. In practice, though, it hasn't helped nearly as much, and in the process has left millions rather resentful.
In principle, the Guild is a good thing, needed, giving legitimacy to a process that no amount of law or moralizing could ever eradicate, and in the process, giving the power to the ones who take the risk - as it should be. In practice, she often wonders at the price she has to pay for that power, that prestige, that recognition.
In principle, the safeguards the Guild uses should prevent a Companion from being ambushed, waylaid, betrayed by a client to a bounty hunter. In practice, Inara has found, there's always a way around the safeguards.
In principle, a Companion's chamber should be sacrosanct, inviolate to any but the Companion and the client. In practice, Shuttle One has been violated time and again, by childish captains and bounty hunters.
In principle, it shouldn't matter to the client what the Companion's other business arrangements are. In practice, the client has made it his business, and has decided to seize the position of power.
In principle, the Bounty Hunters' Guild is a respected organization, much like the Companions' Guild, and the members of each Guild treat the other with respect. In practice, respect is a lost art among the hunters, and Inara is not inclined to show respect ... or mercy.
In principle, a Companion may only use force as a last resort against a client who has lost control. In practice, Inara weighs the threat to her against the threat to a terrorized young girl and a brother whose only real crime was caring for her, and she finds it easy to goad the client into drawing his pistol.
In principle, she is a respected Companion, in a legitimate business arrangement with a transport captain whose other ventures are extremely questionable, and the two men the magistrates gently remove from the shuttle are indicted post-mortem.
In practice, Inara knows as she boosts off the landing pad, she is an abettor of fugitives, a consort of felons, and now a murderess.
In principle, she should be haunted by her actions.
In practice, she will sleep the sleep of the just, knowing she has done the right thing.