The Ixillin shuttle was fairly mundane. It was little more than a box with thrusters, not even a viewport. The interesting thing about it was that it was flown remotely, unlike Imperial shuttles, which required a pilot in the vessel. Prallan wished it had been a little more alien and exciting, but the ship undocked with a fluid ease and flew towards its parent ship. During the flight, Prallan was left completely alone with his thoughts and worries about this particular mission. He wondered why he was going instead of Rickler or Itran, but before he could think very hard on that matter, the ship shuddered and a hiss announced that it was docked with its parent ship.
"Please remain calm as the depressurization process is begun." A calm, female voice echoed through the cabin. The hiss grew in intensity, and Prallan felt the air grow thinner. "Please follow the lighted walkways to the receiving area." Beneath his feet, a pair of yellow lines flashed on the shuttle's bulkhead, and Prallan followed them out of the small craft and into the mother ship. It led him into a large room, twice the size of his quarters on the Hermus, which was sparsely furnished with a small metal table and a few oversized chairs. Prallan waited by them, watching the hatch opposite the room where he entered. Soon a large hairy creature entered the room, its face obscured by a metal and polymer mask, carrying a tray with a small vessel full of liquid and a smaller cup. It wore a robe, covering its torso and lower body, but the visible hair on its body was orange and striped black. Its eyes had a feline cast to them, though most of its face was obscured by the mask.
"Xilishar T'agatar, Lieutenant Prallan Tigrole of the IES Hermus. Many sunrises to greet you and sunsets to lull you to rest." The voice was soft, what Prallan would consider feminine, though there was nothing distinguishing gender from what he could see. "I am Zixirius, ambassador of the Ixillin Collective. Forgive me for not showing my face clearly, but while what you consider breathable air is not toxic to my kind, it is very uncomfortable to breath without assistance."
"May the Emperor bless this meeting, Zixirius, and may your flame never sputter." Prallan returned what he thought was an equal greeting to the sunrise one. He had taken one required class on xenobiological interaction, but it had been woefully inadequate at explaining anything. The Empire had limited contact with outside species. "I take no offense to your mask, and I thank you for accommodating my needs."
"Please, Lieutenant Prallan Tigrole, sit and partake of the offering of tea." Prallan sat in one of the chairs, and Zixirius took the opposite. The Ixillin poured the liquid from the larger vessel into the cup, and offered it to him. "I offer you the tea of the Chintira Tree. We offer tea in remembrance of our forebearers, who upon reaching the stars found peace among our neighbors for a time. Do not fear, this blending is safe for your biology." Prallan took the cup, and drank of the tea. It was extremely bitter and burned his throat slightly, but he trusted that it would not kill him outright. "Chintira Tea for understanding and peace. May we have peace between us."
"My people too desire peace." Prallan said, setting the cup on the table. "I offer you a gift of peace." From a pocket in his uniform, Prallan pulled out a small metal box with an intricate hinge. He set it on the table and pressed down on the center of the hinge, causing it to spring open. Inside was a tiny delicate flame, burning with no kindling or fuel. "This is a Pyrin shard, a piece of our star, blessed by the Emperor himself. It will burn until the fervor of the last true Imperial is quenched, and is a sign of the friendship offered to your people." Zixirius was mesmerized by the flame that required no fuel "In addition to friendship, my people ask to exchange starmaps of our territories, to better know this region of space, and also permission for our vessel to pass into your territory to continue our mission of exploration."
"We will gladly share our knowledge of the stars with you, but we cannot permit your entry into our space for your own safety. There is a constant radiation storm that permeates our entire space. Until your vessels can shield themselves from it, you will not be able to safely traverse our space."
"Couldn't you just provide us that technology? It would be years or decades before we could create such shielding."
"We believe that this protects us. If you spend a great effort learning to shield yourself from the storms, you are not likely to give away such secrets to others easily. We have had to wipe out friends who became enemies after being given this technology. Better that you earn your right to it, and prove to us your commitment to friendship. We will, of course, provide data on the effects of the radiation and any relevant readings."
"Thank you, I understand your reluctance to...." Prallan stopped mid-sentence as the room began to spin. "reluctance to..." he was having trouble completing his sentence, and then he noticed the worried look on Zixirius's face.
"Forgive me, Lieutenant Prallan Tigrole, the tea has taken effect too early. Your biology processes things faster than we anticipated." Vibrant colors erupted around the room. "Please remain calm, this is the gift of the tea. All will be made clear shortly."