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#13864984 Sep 23, 2018 at 06:53 PM
1338 Posts
Thanks to the popularity of Marvel Comics' X-Men series, and the movies and television shows spawned from them, many players of CO and other supers RPGs want to play superheroes with a "mutant" background. Marvel has long used mutants as a metaphor for racism, as they suffer persecution at the hands of frightened "normal humans." The official Champions Universe doesn't feature the kind of widespread anti-mutant paranoia so often displayed in Marvel's universe. To most people on Champs Earth genetic mutation is just one source of super powers, and mutants are viewed as no better or worse than other superhumans. However, there definitely is a minority of people who do hold such fears; and for CO role players who'd enjoy that sort of angsty background for their characters, one official group is particularly willing and able to exploit those fearful people, and mold them into a force dangerous to all mutants, and any other superhumans who would stand in support of them.

To date there's been no PnP source book dedicated to the Institute for Human Advancement (IHA). One was planned before the severe downsizing of Hero Games several years ago, but AFAIK there are no current plans to publish one. Not a lot of information has appeared in other books, and what there is is scattered; but collectively it provides enough potential for some intriguing plot uses for the IHA in CO. So I thought players might find it useful if I collected it. 😉

The core info about the Institute appears in Champions Universe. While the current edition of that book is for the Sixth Edition of the Hero System, the previous Fifth Edition book includes some significant material relevant to the IHA which wasn't reprinted. Other small but valuable data are mentioned in Champions Universe: News Of The World, Champions Villains Vols. 1 & 2, Millennium City, Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth, Teen Champions, Vibora Bay, and VIPER: Coils Of The Serpent.
#13864985 Sep 23, 2018 at 06:57 PM · Edited 2 months ago
1338 Posts
Although the Institute's name makes it sound like a benevolent scientific group or think-tank, its public face is actually a political lobbying group focusing on superhumans, primarily mutants. Its goal is the advancement of "true humans" by severely restricting and controlling, even eliminating, mutants and other supers. While the IHA often objects to and lobbies against superhumans in general -- particularly those who support or defend mutants -- it regards mutant superhumans as "the single most dangerous threat to true humans on this planet today," according to its promotional material. IHA publications, including its annual "Mutant Threat Report", discuss in lurid detail the possibilities of mutants supplanting true humans, and then either killing them all or herding them into slave labor camps. Every time a superhuman battle causes significant damage or loss of human life, the Institute rails against the mutant "abomination" and the "severe hazard mutant superhumans pose to all true humans." Most people in and out of government dismiss the Institute as crackpots, but their papers are professionally-made and skillfully convey the IHA's message.

Founded in 1982 by Annette Berkelheimer, after her death in 1994 the IHA came under the direction of Archer Samuels, a skilled businessman and public relations expert, who if anything is even more rabidly anti-mutant than Berkelheimer was. Under Samuels the IHA has gained a higher, more positive profile in American society, significantly increased its fundraising revenue, and stepped up its lobbying efforts to have the government regulate mutants and similar superhumans.

The vocal support of Senator Phillip Glassman of Wyoming has given the Institute and its message greater legitimacy, which worries mutants on both sides of the law. Following the death of his beloved daughter Anelle in 1997 in a super battle in New York City, Senator Glassman became a tireless crusader against superhumans in general, and mutant superhumans in particular. A four-term senator, Glassman has a lot of clout in Washington and is skilled at manipulating the media to get out the messages he wants to convey.

But the public face of the Institute hides a much darker and more dangerous visage. Archer Samuels took over the IHA after secretly murdering Annette Berkelheimer, because she wasn't hard-line enough for him. A fanatic mutant-hater for reasons he's never clearly articulated, under Samuels the IHA has been gearing up for all-out war with mutantkind. Using the influx of money Samuels has generated, it has trained and equipped a small army of "mutant hit squads." A standard IHA "agent" (the organization refers to them as "soldiers") is a skilled normal human equipped with assault rifle, body armor, and related conventional gear. As the Institute strengthens both its finances and its ties with ARGENT (see below), it may switch to high-tech equipment like blaster rifles and force-field belts (which would give CO players an excuse to "upgrade" their opponents as they grow in power and experience).

With considerable help from ARGENT the IHA has developed sophisticated "Minuteman" combat robots, able to take on and destroy even powerful superhumans. Currently on their seventh generation (although the first six never appeared publicly), the Minutemen are artificially intelligent, and equipped with a wide array of variable-configuration weapons to take advantage of known weaknesses of particular mutants. They stand at least ten feet tall (sometimes taller due to options or upgrades), with a green metallic body and gold arms and head. Their limbs and body have panels covering ports for weapons and flight jets. (The Minuteman robots have only been described and game-statted in the Fifth Edition version of Champions Universe. But clearly they were inspired by those nemeses of the X-Men, the Sentinels.)
#13864986 Sep 23, 2018 at 06:59 PM · Edited 2 months ago
1338 Posts
Having started in the United States the Institute remains strongest there, but definitely aspires to export its campaign internationally. It's opened branch offices in a number of European cities, and has on several occasions strongly lobbied the French government -- which has some of the strictest superhuman registration laws in Europe -- to pass even harsher anti-super legislation. Archer Samuels doesn't look too closely at where donations to the IHA come from -- anything that helps him pursue his goals is worth taking. Rumored to advise foreign governments over how to handle their "mutant problem," Samuels and other IHA leaders have secretly worked with North Korea, Chiquador, Iran, Awad, and other "rogue states" to help them cope with superheroes, for which the IHA received lavish under-the-table "consulting fees." Additionally, a number of wealthy supervillains, including Dr. Destroyer and the Warlord, have covertly contributed large amounts of cash through proxies, since they think the IHA weakens their enemies. The Supreme Serpent of VIPER is considering infiltrating an operative into the Institute to direct it more toward VIPER's purposes.

OTOH mutant supervillains like Gravitar, Holocaust, and Menton abhor the Institute and take every opportunity to attack it or cause it as much trouble as they can... and the IHA holds those incidents up as proof that it's right. The mutant master villain Kinematik, who actively promotes an aggressive pro-mutant-superiority campaign reminiscent of Marvel's Magneto, has often attacked IHA offices and public events. The Institute has rated him #1 on its Mutant Threat Report every year since 2006. Kinematik and his followers have clashed with Minuteman robots on several occasions, although they've never been linked to the IHA. (All the preceding villains are written up in Champions Villains Vol. 1: Master Villains.)

As mentioned earlier, non-mutant superhumans can also find the IHA their enemy, particularly if they support mutants or oppose the Institute's plans. For example, MC's simian super-scientist, Dr. Silverback, is a vocal and influential advocate for the rights of superhumans, which has earned him the IHA's especial ire.
#13864988 Sep 23, 2018 at 07:00 PM · Edited 2 months ago
1338 Posts
Aside from Archer Samuels, little has been revealed about the organizational structure of the IHA, although other "leaders" have been mentioned. The one other named official operates out of Vibora Bay. The IHA maintains a small, but well run and well funded office in the financial district of VB, which coordinates its fundraising and recruitment efforts in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. The local director, Charles Bourne, is a true believer in the Institute's philosophy, and often gives interviews and press releases when superhuman violence breaks out.

It's unclear whether Senator Phillip Glassman is involved with or even aware of the IHA's more immoral and illegal actions, but other prominent politicians are, although they may not be as public in their support for the Institute. (See below.) The IHA also has ties to several companies which helped fund Millennium City. While not as strong as some authorities and supers fear, those ties could prove problematic for MC heroes.

The IHA has built several secret bases, including at least one "concentration camp" where captured mutants are subjected to numerous tests and cruel experiments, mostly to discover exploitable mutant weaknesses.

The IHA has a branch called "Future Citizens" dedicated to cultivating its beliefs in teenagers. While it presents itself as similar to the Scouts or 4H, Future Citizens is more like the Hitler Youth. It teaches its members human supremist doctrine, and the threat to the "human way of life" posed by mutants and other superhumans. Local IHA offices organize retreats where youths learn survival techniques and weapon use, while guest lecturers always turn their presentations to the superiority of humanity and malice of superhumans.

Much of the membership's time is taken up in volunteer work. Whenever superhumans go on a rampage, Future Citizens help with the relief effort -- which gives the youth a first-hand look at the evils superhumans cause. Twice a year there's a national Future Citizens convention for teens from all over the country, usually in a city recovering from some superhuman battle.
#13864989 Sep 23, 2018 at 07:02 PM
1338 Posts
Although the IHA can be used as typical combat foes for superheroes -- particularly their Minuteman robots -- some of their potentially most interesting uses would be in the arena of public relations. The Institute constantly strives to persuade more people to their way of thinking, and to discredit any mutant or other superheroes who would oppose them. The stories of mutants unfortunate enough to be the direct targets of the Institute highlight how that dimension could be added to PC role playing.

David Green was born with the ability to control fire, but had no desire but to live a normal life. However, one day he used his powers to rescue a woman and her young daughter from a burning building, and was lauded in the media as a hero. The next day an op-ed piece appeared accusing David of having lost control of his powers and actually starting the fire. The resulting controversy and letters from "concerned citizens" was part of a coordinated smear campaign by the IHA. David withdrew from public sight and eventually disappeared altogether. Most people assumed he'd moved away, but in fact the Institute abducted him to their mutant concentration camp for experimentation. David eventually escaped with two other mutants, but because he'd recognized visitors to the camp as important politicians he was afraid to go to the authorities. David Green ultimately became the reluctant supervillain called Firedrake. (Firedrake's story and character sheet appear in Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth.)

As a boy Raimundo Alvarez became part of the show of a traveling faith healer, due to his ability to mend broken bones and cure bone diseases. Years later duing a show in Texas, someone in the crowd shouted accusations of him being a "mutie" rather than a genuine faith healer. The man soon whipped the crowd into a frenzy, and Raimundo was on the verge of being beaten to death when Kinematik arrived and saved him. Kinematik revealed that the man in the crowd was an IHA plant. Raimundo joined Kinematik's pro-mutant crusade, under the code-name Fossil. (Fossil's write-up is part of Kinematik's entry in Champions Villains Vol. 1.)

In early 2005, in the aftermath of the Reality Storm crisis of the previous year, several "concerned citizens" groups coordinated by the Institute for Human Advancement, began to publicly campaign for the Champions to leave MC, either voluntarily or by order of the city government. They argued that the city wouldn't be subject to so many threats if it didn't have a resident superhero team drawing villainous attention. With so much recent destruction around them, at first many Lennies felt some sympathy for this position, but the Champions hired Sapphire's PR firm to counter it, backed by victims rights groups and similar organizations. Ultimately public opinion turned against the IHA's plan.
#13864990 Sep 23, 2018 at 07:03 PM · Edited 2 months ago
1338 Posts
Some Champions books include "plot seeds" for individual characters or groups: short plot suggestions which a Game Master could choose to expand upon for their own games. A few such seeds are mentioned for the Institute for Human Advancement. While most seeds aren't noted as having happened yet in official continuity, they could inspire plots CO players might like to run.

To gain political support, the IHA hires prostitutes to seduce married Congressmen so it can blackmail them into favoring the Institute's agenda. Heroes discovering this would have to figure out how to resolve it without attracting media attention.

The IHA hires assassins to go after heroes, equipping them with typical VIPER technology (probably provided by ARGENT, which frequently contracts for VIPER). If the assassins fail the VIPER tech will deflect suspicion from the Institute.

The IHA offers to equip any police force that requests it with $10 million worth of anti-superhuman weaponry. Where are they getting the money to afford this -- what's really going on behind the scenes?

IHA leaders have been trying to develop a plan to lure most of America's prominent mutants to one location so the Minutemen can obliterate them at a single stroke.

The supervillain Mirage is a master of chemistry and holography, who uses her technology to set traps for superhumans to prove that "normal humans" are just as good as them. (Think Mysterio from Marvel Comics.) The IHA approaches her with an offer of a consulting job, but they really just want to steal her tech to use against mutants. Mirage may have to ask for heroic help to get it back... or just trick them into helping her. (Mirage is detailed in Champions Villains Vol. 3: Solo Villains.)
#13868836 Sep 29, 2018 at 11:04 AM
1338 Posts
Perhaps it would be appropriate to add a little info about the IHA's main opposite number in the "war" over mutants, whom I mentioned above.

Kinematik first appeared in public on Champions Earth in 2004, when he attacked and damaged UNTIL's super-prison, the Guardhourse, to liberate "mutants held in oppression by norms." Two of the four mutant supervillains he freed that day became part of his core followers. Since then, Kinematik has promoted his pro-mutant agenda through violence and destruction, as when he attacked Washington, D.C. in 2007 to "protest" what he views as America's anti-mutant attitudes and policies, which resulted in damage to several monuments and the deaths of over a hundred innocent bystanders, including two Congressmen. He has no problem with hurting or killing "norms" in general as unavoidable casualties of war, although he's not so extreme that he'd willingly harm a norm who obviously treats mutants with respect.

Kinematik's current theory and position, which has circulated widely over the Internet through various essays he's written, is that mutants represent the next and final stage in human evolution, and are inherently superior to norms so should rightfully rule them. (And of course, as spiritual leader of this movement, Kinematik would rule the mutants.) Kinematik is a black man of average height and build, who possesses powerful but somewhat limited abilities to control momentum and inertia, including near-instantaneous transportation of himself and his followers by canceling their momentum relative to the Earth's rotation (which also works to fling enemies far from him).

Kinematik actively seeks to recruit other mutants to his cause. He has three committed followers: Blindside,, who can telepathically interfere with someone's neural functions, influence their minds, or even "possess" another person's body; Fossil, who can mend or damage a person's bones, grow bone weapons and armor over his body, and animate skeletons; and Overdrive, who can selectively increase any of his physical or mental abilities to formidable superhuman levels (although the more of them he augments at one time, the less he can increase any one of them). Any known mutant superhuman is likely to be approached to join him. He's made contact with many mutants in the past and worked with quite a few. No few of them have sympathy for his position but aren't yet convinced to join him. Others have clearly refused him. Some, notably mutant superheroes, forcefully oppose him. Kinematik considers any mutants in that last category, or even those who refuse him with marked disrespect or who denigrate his cause, as "race traitors" and "tools of the anti-mutant bigots," to be treated the same as norms. As far as Kinematik is concerned, if you aren't with him you're against him. In fact such mutants may be especial targets of his wrath.

What no one but Kinematik knows is that he isn't native to Champions Earth. He comes from an alternate Earth where mutants are oppressed and persecuted. Once a true superhero on that world, when the world's governments turned against mutants Kinematik led the mutant resistance against them. At first trying to change people's minds while using minimal force, Kinematik's attitudes grew more extreme and violent over time. But after years of guerilla warfare, despite his power and cunning he was cornered by his enemies, and forced to use an experimental device to transport himself to another universe. On Champions Earth the conditions for mutants are much better, but Kinematik still sees the seeds of future mutant oppression there and is determined to prevent it. After seeing the worst in human nature for so long there's practically no way to convince him he's wrong.

Besides Kinematik one other person from his world, the former member of PSI called Lancer, has been revealed to also have come to Champs Earth. So there's precedent for additional characters, including PCs, to try to escape to the same universe. Eventually the government of that world may tire of Champs Earth being used as an "escape route" for "wanted criminals," and send their own forces to try to retrieve Kinematik and other refugees (which forces can include anti-mutant "Hunterbots"). OTOH Kinematik might be able to persuade Champs Earth superhumans to join him in trying to liberate mutants on his home world. In fact Lancer returned home with some of her former PSI colleagues to attempt just that, but failed.

Kinematik and his followers are fully detailed in Champions Villains Vol. 1: Master Villains. His homeworld, referred to as "Emperor Martinez Earth," is described in Book Of The Empress.
#13870035 Sep 30, 2018 at 06:47 PM · Edited 1 month ago
1338 Posts
An interesting question based on the post above was posed by "markhawkman" to the mirror of this thread on the official Champions Online discussion forums. I'll transcribe it and my reply below.

[markhawkman]"Was it explained WHY they're persecuted? Marvel comics has a collection of reasons, some better than others, that have been used over the years, but the humans have always had some sort of stated reason."[/markhawkman]

Per the history of "Emperor Martinez Earth" in Book Of The Empress pp. 131-132, the divergence between that world and Champions Earth starts in 1980, and involves two key individuals who differ significantly on each world. EME's version of Menton was even more powerful than the CE one. He rebelled against Dr. Destroyer, burned out Destroyer's mind, took control of his organization, and recruited dozens of other "mentalist" supers with promises of power as the elite rulers of the Earth. After four years of battle with the global forces of justice, Menton was killed and his criminal empire collapsed; but the worldwide public backlash against mentalists, even heroic ones, was severe.

On both worlds Juan Martinez was the first Secretary-Marshal of UNTIL. On CE he's a man of high ideals, but on EME he's a political opportunist and schemer of the first water. Martinez played on those public fears, and UNTIL's prominent role in stopping Menton, to get himself elected Secretary-General of the United Nations, and gain sweeping new powers for the UN to counter the "mentalist threat." Because most mentalists are mutants, the campaign was later broadened to include all super-powered mutants. Martinez himself remains Secretary-General of the UN today, but in the name of ant-mutant security has consolidated power in his office, making him the effective Emperor of Earth.
#13870982 Oct 02, 2018 at 09:46 PM
289 Posts
Thanks for this breakdown. I've been following this thread. I remember the IHA mentioned in previous discussions and references mentioned in the Villains Volumes, etc. At 1st it seemed just an expy from X-Men comics, and it is, but it seems to take on an extra significance these days.

The IHA really would make an interesting ongoing antagonist for storytelling. It's just secretive enough to be manipulating events from behind-the-scenes so it isn't caught, yet also public enough to be recognisable as an ongoing antagonist. Like VIPER and Argent are supposed to be like that, but are too blatant. IHA is just about abstract enough so they can disavow their agents, because they're not exactly wearing blatant VIPER uniforms or all Argent gear, and they say they're just a think tank or at worst a political lobby group.

Ironically, the most important detail IMHO is the design of their Minutemen robots...y'know, the things that are definitely not humans. Don't worry, Liaden, this is something I need costume contest circuit regular Pariba to work with me on. I got the brief about the green and gold, but it can't be just a reskinned X-Men Sentinel. It's gotta be some weird hybrid of a historic Minuteman statue and some Ayn Randian Atlas statue...except mecha. Like you can see it on a poster with HUMAN children playing around it.

This topic is quite possibly the single-most significant topic to my personal interests, for a very memorable villain group. I thought Qliphoth or aliens would offer a great ongoing antagonist, but it might be the most dangerous enemy is Man.

More action at Champions Online Comics at http://co-comics.webs.com
#13871010 Oct 02, 2018 at 07:35 AM · Edited 1 month ago
1338 Posts
Thank you for saying that, BB. I put info like this out in the hope that some CORP members will find it interesting and useful. 😊 I look forward to seeing the fruits of your Minuteman interpretation -- sounds tasty. I could see something very like the posters you describe prominently displayed on Emperor Martinez Earth, featuring their Hunterbots.

Probably the worst-case scenario would be the Institute for Human Advancement somehow making contact with Emperor Martinez Earth. I'm sure Archer Samuels would be overjoyed to find a world run by people who hate mutants as much as he does; and EME's backing could greatly raise the threat level posed by the IHA. OTOH Juan Martinez might see the IHA as useful tools through which to prosecute the conquest of another Earth.
#13878210 Oct 13, 2018 at 01:26 AM
170 Posts
Thanks for the information Liaden! I always wanted to know a bit more about the IHA and how they operated and I love the breakdown you did here.

I was thinking about making a character, a young mutant who’s powers manifest in a public way and worse yet, in an unintentionally destructive manner. I was thinking that his father could perhaps be a senator himself or a state representative, who either reluctantly or wholeheartedly sends his son to a sort of IHA sponsored ‘retreat’ to address his condition?

At the risk of sounding a bit like Firedrake, how exactly would you go about making this kind of character and how would you make him unique? Any idea on powers? A mentalist sounds cool but a element related power could work as well?
#13878329 Oct 13, 2018 at 05:47 AM
1338 Posts
You're welcome, Vesta. I'm glad this helped spark some character ideas. 😎

From a role-playing perspective, it seems to me your character's background is fertile soil for an angst-ridden identity crisis. His "coming out" as a superhuman mutant sounds like something that at least caused him embarrassment, if not outright guilt and shame. Whatever his relationship might have been with his father, the man now does not accept who his son really is, and is forcing him into the hands of people who will use and hurt him. That would be a path to supervillainy for many people -- or to a resolve to prove the IHA and his father wrong, to become a force for good, and to help other young mutants going through similar experiences.

I think if this was my character with such a background, I'd have him escape from the IHA with the help of Kinematik. He might work with Kinematik for a brief time out of gratitude and the need to belong somewhere, but quickly become disillusioned by his extremism, and reject both his philosophy and that of the IHA. An encounter with a heroic mutant could inspire your character to make him or her their role model. In this setting Sapphire would be an obvious choice for that.

Power-wise, the field is really wide open. Note that "mentalist" doesn't necessarily mean some variation of telepathy. Precedents in the setting make it clear that any power that can be rationalized as using "psionic energy" would be fair game. Characters with such powers include: channeling psionic energy through their own bodies to dramatically increase their strength and durability; creating flame by telekinetically exciting the molecules in the air; telekinesis that only manipulates earth and stone; forming limbs, blades, even whole giant bodies around themselves out of "solid energy." But many mutants develop very different powers.
#13878841 Oct 13, 2018 at 05:52 PM
170 Posts
#13878329 Lord Liaden wrote:

You're welcome, Vesta. I'm glad this helped spark some character ideas. 😎

From a role-playing perspective, it seems to me your character's background is fertile soil for an angst-ridden identity crisis. His "coming out" as a superhuman mutant sounds like something that at least caused him embarrassment, if not outright guilt and shame. Whatever his relationship might have been with his father, the man now does not accept who his son really is, and is forcing him into the hands of people who will use and hurt him. That would be a path to supervillainy for many people -- or to a resolve to prove the IHA and his father wrong, to become a force for good, and to help other young mutants going through similar experiences.

I think if this was my character with such a background, I'd have him escape from the IHA with the help of Kinematik. He might work with Kinematik for a brief time out of gratitude and the need to belong somewhere, but quickly become disillusioned by his extremism, and reject both his philosophy and that of the IHA. An encounter with a heroic mutant could inspire your character to make him or her their role model. In this setting Sapphire would be an obvious choice for that.

Power-wise, the field is really wide open. Note that "mentalist" doesn't necessarily mean some variation of telepathy. Precedents in the setting make it clear that any power that can be rationalized as using "psionic energy" would be fair game. Characters with such powers include: channeling psionic energy through their own bodies to dramatically increase their strength and durability; creating flame by telekinetically exciting the molecules in the air; telekinesis that only manipulates earth and stone; forming limbs, blades, even whole giant bodies around themselves out of "solid energy." But many mutants develop very different powers.



I was thinking perhaps maybe he hails from a more conservative background or at least his family does, perhaps an old money family from Washington DC or perhaps Virginia or Maryland, and I was thinking his mutation is either very visible or perhaps noticeable?

I was reading up on Anole of the X Men, so with that said I also had the thought of perhaps giving a sort of more unique mutation or powerset that maybe doesn’t deal with mentalist/psionic Powers? Something unique enough to have Kinematik keep him around for a bit?
#13878883 Oct 13, 2018 at 07:44 PM
1338 Posts
Hmm... of the classic supers archetypes, Kinematik's forces currently lack a "metamorph," someone who changes from normal human appearance into other shapes (either other types of organisms like Beast Boy, or an amorphous malleable body such as Plastic Man's). Shape-changing can have many covert applications which would undoubtedly appeal to Kinematik.
#13878979 Oct 14, 2018 at 12:41 AM
170 Posts
#13878883 Lord Liaden wrote:

Hmm... of the classic supers archetypes, Kinematik's forces currently lack a "metamorph," someone who changes from normal human appearance into other shapes (either other types of organisms like Beast Boy, or an amorphous malleable body such as Plastic Man's). Shape-changing can have many covert applications which would undoubtedly appeal to Kinematik.



I was thinking perhaps a character who can either mimic animals (in a way similar to Vixen from DC) or turn into one ala Beast Boy, with a name like Wild Thing perhaps?

I had the thought that maybe he filled the role of spy and perhaps shock trooper at times, his anger at being tortured and abandoned being directed by Kinematik against humans until he realized he was becoming exactly what they feared?

Ideas on maybe how his powers work, and his general power level? That aside I was going to maybe give him powers related to maybe earth manipulation or geokinesis perhaps, with the bonus of his powers being dangerous enough to warrant his farher’s concern, that of the IHA, and lastly Kinematik’s. All see him as a monster, a mutant threat, and tool for the cause respectively, while all he wants to is to safely use his powers in peace I think?
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