A brief description of Albedo
Albedo is a "furry" comic (i.e., the main characters are anthropomorphic animals) written by Steve Gallacci. [Note: When I say "Albedo", I am talking about the "Erma Felna, EDF" portion -- at various times this storyline has been one of three in the comic or the entire comic, with the latter currently being the case.] I usually don't go in for furry comics and such, but Albedo is different in that it is well thought out and hard-science based.
Erma Felna is a young officer (a combat pilot) in the Extraplanetary Defense Force, the integrated military arm of a Confederation of worlds. The EDF consists of the space navy assets plus expeditionary ground forces. Given the difficulty of moving heavy armored forces across space, such forces remain within the various Homeguard units created by each member planet. Only the best Homeguard personnel are invited to join the EDF.
The background starts 200 years before the "present", when the inhabitants of the world of Arras Chanka realize that they have no "history", no explanation for how their advanced civilization came into being. Even the Net, the sophisticated computer network that forms the basis of their paperless society, does not have the answer.
Several theories were advanced, the most likely being that the 163 sentient races (which the reader will recognize as being based on Terran anaimals) on Arras Chanka are genetic constructs placed there by agents unknown (the "Creators") for purposes unknown. [This theory is be bolstered when some of the characters in the story accidently discover the wreckage of a spacecraft containing the body of a female alien with startling genetic similarities to themselves. The alien (which the reader will recognize as human) has been drifting for several hundred years in a spacecraft beyond the technological capabilities of either the ConFed or its adversary, the ILR.]
The answer, it seemed, was in the stars, and so Arras Chanka began a program of research and development leading finally to fusion-powered spacecraft with interstellar jump drives. Many years went by, and colonies were founded on a number of worlds. Approximately twenty years ago two ethnically homogenous worlds united into what became known as the Interstellar Lepine Republic to launch an offensive campaign which seized several neighboring systems. Arras Chanka and the older colonies responded by forming the Confederation and the EDF.
While "The War" has been over for some time now, cold war tensions still run high between the two governments. The Confederation has further problems as well -- many of the outlying colonies view the Confederation central goverment with as much distrust as the ILR, which the ILR and others are using to their advantage.
The series opens with an ILR raid on a Confederation planet, the opening round of a larger ILR campaign of terrorism, assassination, and military intimidation. Other episodes involve the EDF campaign to retake the planet, space battles between ILR and Confederation ships, and an internal conspiracy or two. Erma gets embroiled in these things, and the political intrigues that go along with them.
If you are not usually interested in "furry" comics, don't let that put you off -- I bought it originally solely based on the technical stuff, and was pleasantly surprised when I liked the storyline, also. The tech is hard, the strategic and tactical ramifications of space flight are fairly well though out, and the explanation of the jump drive (originally published in Vortext) may be the best I have read in science fiction. Gallacci is a gearhead -- one of the editions of the comic, for example, contained an eight-page article (with several illustrations) describing the primary EDF armored fighting vehicle and it's many variants. The starships are basically capped cylinders armed with sophisticated Autonomous Combat Vehicles and point defense weapons; interface travel is through the use of fusion-powered aerodynes, which are also used for close air support.
[The following section needs to be updated to include the information on the new Albedo: Platinum Catalyst by Sanguine Productions.]
There was also an Albedo roleplaying game, originally put out by Gallacci's company, Thoughts & Images, and later picked up by Chessex. Both versions were illustrated by Gallacci. I would recommend the RPG as a good source of ideas for anyone who wants to run a hard-science RPG, even if they are not interested in the Albedo universe. I also think that Albedo ship combat would make an excellent boardgame, perhaps using a variant of GDW's Triplanetary rules. Unfortunately, the ship design rules presented in the Albedo Ship Sourcebook are worthless; between the things that are just plain wrong (like the definition of a ton of thrust), sloppily done (confusing weight and mass), missing (the limiting factor on number of propulsion reactors a ship may have is there spacing around the circumference of the hull, but there is no indication of how much space said reactors occupy) and outright contradictions (numbers given in the tables don't match the text), the design rules are unusable. The rest of the book, however, is well-done.
The T&I/CHessex RPG products are:
- Boxed set (1st edition)
- Softcover (2nd edition)
- Ship Sourcebook: Jump drive explanation
(reprint of the Vortext article), deckplans,
ship construction rules.
- Zho-Chaka: adventure, contains map of a
typical Homeguard base.
- The Drift: EDF vs. ILR pirates (IIRC), contains deck plans of an EDF destroyer.
The comics set in the universe include the three volumes of the Albedo series, another story set in the same universe published in the comic series Birthright (which I have never seen), and the (to date) four Command Reviews, which reprint all the Erma Felna portions through volume 2, number 3. [This information is somewhat out-of-date. Until I get a chance to update it, I suggest scouring the web for better info.]