The Iron Angels Starfighter Tournament is a bi-annual event held in Polaris space, bordering the Delphinus Nebula. The first tournament was founded by a conglomeration of astro-engineering corporations in order to showcase their produce. However, the tournament quickly picked up interests from the military factions of the nearby star nations, who see the IST as an excellent test bed for new technology. Military commanders also see it as an opportunity to prove their tactical expertise in the area of fighter-class vessel design.
The competition is a simple affair: pilots engage each other in both solo and team matches in a confined area directly adjacent to the Delphinus Nebula, which provides numerous hazard-filled areas of space which are used to a dramatic effect by Iron Angels Omnicorp, the event's organizer. Notable past matches included: asteroids thrust into the midst of the field; surprise comet flights; fields dominated by caustic clouds, and even, in one well-known match, recreations of ancient Republic of Glyfhaven pirate ships spreading chaos by jumping into the midst of the battle and opening fire on both sides.
The engagements are set up in a pyramid-style tournament structure. Competitors draw lots for initial engagements and work their way up the ladder. The pyramidal structure also provides for minor matches, with surviving losers given the opportunity to step back up the ladder in, what are known as, "Twisted Engagements." Long-time fans of the IST are the most rabid about these matches: more often then not, the pilots have nothing to loose and everything to win, making their performances haphazard and chaotic, and the matches unbeatable for excitement.
The tournament is open to all, although the huge expense of outfitting and maintaining a team is only affordable to the military, the corporations, and a select few mega-rich individuals. The corporations attempt to balance this tendency towards the elite with sponsorship programs. National and system-wide competitions are held throughout the galaxy by various companies, with the best talent skimmed off for the big leagues.
The fighters themselves are the absolute apex of modern technology, with the most advanced engines, avionics, weapons, and defense systems that each team can muster. Many of the systems and craft designs are advanced prototypes or clever modifications of existing craft. The military teams in particular are famous for pulling out the stops to show what a modified version of one of their ships can do. Many a military fighter has earned a fearsome reputation due to its performance in the IST, while corporations see a fighter's performance in the tournament as the key to a new model's sales. However, the models displayed during the IST bear little resemblance to their production-line counterparts.
Due to the extremely dangerous nature of the sport, the fighters are equipped with miniaturized grav-shields, ceramic-fiber-auto-ejecting cockpit shells, self-sealing hulls, and a host of other safety features only available to those with galaxy-sized bank accounts. Fatalities are rare, but injuries are ubiquitous.
This year's IST is especially significant in that, for the first time in nearly a century, the Antarean powers and the League are once again separate. All the IST participants can feel the oncoming storm and the tensions are reverberating through the tournament. For the first time since the tournament began, fatalities are occurring during the competitions leading up to the tournament. The worries are acting divisively, not only are the military pilots feeling the heat, but the corporations as well, with their sponsors taking sides, the pilots are as well.
The tournament this year is expected to be especially bloody, with the participants taking sides every pilot has to wonder if the next time they face their opponent will be in the midst of a war. Which begs the question, wouldn't it be better to take him down now?
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