Once an internationally recognized "young Olympian to watch", Olena Kovalenko's Olympic career was cut short amidst allegations of doping that, as far as the international sports community knows, ultimately landed her in an unnamed prison somewhere in her native Ukraine. It was an excuse. In fact, she's a victim of her nation's anti-mutant pogrom and a survivor of Poznyar. She's also a victim of its aftermath. Now residing in NYC, in less-than-legal circumstances, she stands at the crossroads where morality, survival, and revenge meet... but lead to very different ends.
Olena Kovalenko was born just outside the city of Kalush in Ivano-Frankivs'k oblat, Ukraine, the daughter of a factory worker and a teacher. Bright and perceptive even as a young child, she was relatively happy and well-liked by her peers. A solid student in school, fond of the sciences (especially physics) and athletics. Obstacle courses and cross-country running were among her greatest pleasures (which eventually led to a discovery of parkour), though she also excelled at ball and team sports. Preferring more focussed, solitary pursuits to the over-stimulation of team sports, however, she picked up archery and concentrated on it, rather than anything with wider appeal.
Displaying a keen eye for detail and excellent hand-eye coordination as an archer, she went so far as to make the Ukrainian Olympic team in the 2008 Summer Games, where she upset the South Korean favourites and took the gold. Her victory at the games would be the high point of her life. After her success in Bejing, she went on to compete in subsequent national and worlds competitions with similar results.
About this time, however, the Ukrainian government implemented a hardline anti-mutant policy and began mandatory x-gene testing and registration of its citizens -- tests Olena had avoided until then. The authorities discovered she carried the active gene (as did her mother) and eventually deduced that her extraordinary athletic success was a direct manifestation of that gene.
She was shipped off to one of the many so-called registration facilities (later called federal prisons and ultimately revealed to the international community as concentration camps to rival those of Nazi Germany) along with countless other young mutant women. There, she was put to work performing back-breaking manual labour. Gone were her dreams of future Olympic golds. The government saw to that when it fabricated an enhancement drug scandal around her as an excuse to retire one of their most promising young athletes from major competition. Gone too were her thoughts of a university science degree or any other post-secondary field of study. Her whole world became about rocky soil, work quotas, and basic scrounging to survive. She learned to keep her head down and avoid making too many close attachments.
It took her several long months to work out just why she'd been imprisoned. She knew the camp was full of mutants, and understood her presence there implied she was one, too, but she didn't know what they thought she could do. It wasn't like anyone thought to tell her before they tranq'ed her and tossed her in the back of a cattle car. She didn't look strange, couldn't change shape or appearance, didn't shoot energy out of her hands or eyes, and wasn't psionic in any way. Thus, she was at a loss as to what it was. It was only through countless tests by the camp's inquisitive scientific staff -- cruel men charged with discovering the best way to control each of the mutants so that the government could develop better "precautionary measures" against them -- and the friendship of another imprisoned girl there, Tetyana Balanchuk, that she discovered it was all about how she perceived the world.
Together, she and Tetyana survived 3 years in that infernal camp -- hidden just north of Radcha near the Belarus border. Three years of back breaking manual labour, deprivation, and abuse. By the time they were finally shackled and herded into a box car for a rail trip south to the garrison at Poznyar, it was almost a relief.
The trip was unsurprisingly miserable, and it ended at Poznyar, a Ukraine army garrison nearly half the country away. Olena had lost all sense of time and place by the time they stopped. She had no idea how long she and the other prisoners had stood propped up against each other in the acrid dark. When the first sounds of coughing and choking in the distance reached her sensitive ears, she realized that death, though welcome, would not be easy. Nevertheless, the wait seemed interminable. She just wanted it over with.
Then, however, the sound of conflict reached her ears. Soldiers' cries of "MUTANTS", the rattle of gunfire, the groaning cry of metal rending from metal changed the entire tenor of the environment. The containers, untouched, unlocked. Her shackles crumbled. A woman's voice sounded in her head, encouraging hope. Daylight burst into the darkness and the world was thrown into complete chaos.
Freed from their dark cages, some of the beleaguered horde broke and ran for freedom, while others ran toward the soldiers that had been their tormentors for so long, intent on vengeance, Olena stood overwhelmed by the sudden influx of sensory input amidst the carnage. She stumbled blindly ahead when a sense in the back of her mind encouraged her to do so, but her eyes were dazzled by the light from the sky and the flash of countless explosions of mutant and mundane power and fighting wasn't her first instinct. If Tetyana hadn't found her and used her own body and power to shield them both from bullets that flew their way from misfired guns, she very likely wouldn't have survived.
But, survive she did. And the X-men, their rescuers, were hailed as heroes among the mutant prisoners. The X-men, however, could only do so much. They escorted the prisoners to a nearby village, a place the Americans thought would be safe -- at least, safe enough for a stop-over. And it was. But they couldn't stay there. And the X-men didn't exactly linger around to make sure they stayed safe.
Olena realized, as did others, that they needed to flee the country. Get as far away, as fast as they could. It wouldn't take long for the Ukrainian army to launch a massive manhunt for them all. And it wasn't unreasonable to expect their orders to include the use of lethal force. The easiest thing to do was to flee north into Belarus. Not, mind, that the Belarusians would take kindly such a thing. The survivors ultimately decided to split into smaller groups and take their chances whichever way they could. Tetyana said she had cousins in Minsk. So, north they went.
They were pursued most of the way. Oleana's perceptive abilities kept them a step ahead of most of their pursuers. Tetyana's ability to change the temperature of her body and thus melt the weaponry of anyone that did get close enough to fire at them kept them safe in the heat of the moment -- though every scar the girl received from it left its mark on both their psyches. Nevertheless, they ultimately reached Minsk, and what they thought was the safety of Tetyana's extended family.
Ultimately, Tetyana's cousin, as fearful of mutants as any government official in Kiev, sold them out. Only, instead of selling them to the government, he took his (metaphorical) thirty pieces of silver from a man who specialized in a unique form of human trafficking -- providing indentured mutant services to anyone willing to pay.
That, of course, wasn't what the girls were told. They were told his contact would get them out of Europe, get them over to America -- land of freedom... and their X-men saviours. All they had to do was pay for their passage.
Of course, it's not like the girls had any money. But they were assured that could be worked out on the other side of the ocean. There were people that liked mutants and were willing to give them jobs. Land of opportunity, America, after all.
Truthfully, especially looking back on it, Olena didn't really believe them. There was something about the way their hearts fluttered in their chests and mircobeads of sweat gathered on their brows, not to mention the suppressed signs of arousal in the contact man, that put her off the whole scheme. But, she couldn't... wouldn't abandon Tetyana, who had become so much like a sister to her by this time they regularly referred to each other as such. And she was tired of running. She just wanted to stop. If they could stop in America, so much the better. So, reluctantly, she accepted the deal.
Weeks later, they arrived in New York City and the new lives they'd been promised -- lives that ended up looking remarkably like the ones they'd just fled. Or, just possibly worse, since they were now in a foreign land where Tetyana didn't speak the language at all and Olena spoke it haltingly at best. They still had no money and no ID. And the jobs they had been promised were... not quite what they'd hoped.
They were effectively slaves yet again, pet mutant brought out to do tricks (some demonstrating their abilities, others... of a different sort) by trakhaty vyrodky that made the sadistic camp guards look almost friendly in comparison.
As fatalistic as she had learned to be over the past several years, Olena finally broke. She finally got truly angry. It wasn't a hot, raging anger. It was a focused, smouldering anger. The kind that burns for a very, very long time and fuels feats of great, patient vengeance. Anger at the stupid, selfish humans and the brutish, short-sighted government that tried to kill her -- that probably succeeded, she was sure, in killing her mother. Anger at the American mutants that had promised them freedom, safety, and hope, but delivered nothing but more pain and suffering. Anger at the manipulative vyrodky that had tricked them into this predicament. And, most of all, anger at herself for not doing more to prevent it.
But that was the crux of it, wasn't it? She really had no one to blame but herself. All of which leaves her where? Stranded and imprisoned in a foreign land with nowhere to turn for help and a whole lot of hurt to repay.
Olena is recognized as an Olympic-class archer and (thanks to the scandal that surrounds her) is known by name, at least, to most true afficionados of the sport. While her notoriety isn't an advantage, her skill certainly is.
Note: Olena's archery skill is often enhanced by her "Dead Aim". She's had the training to be an Olympic champion -- which is about physical stance and coordination (things not covered by her naturally increase senses), but that training has always been boosted by her perception bonuses. Without the basic form and technique, the best eyesight in the world is still useless.
Combat:Flawless Aim (8)
Olena's hyper-perception and resultant hand-eye coordination lend her remarkable ability with trajectories. If it can be thrown or fired from a hand-held weapon, she can make it hit exactly where and how she wants it to, simply because she can perceive all the forces that act upon it and adjust accordingly on-the-fly.
Scope: This ability applies to more than just projectile weapons. It applies to any body in motion that's within the extent of her perceptive range. She instinctively "sees" the motion path without having to think about it. (Incidentally, this makes her a real shark at the pool table or dart board, too.)
Olena's mutant gene has heightened her sensory perceptions to metanormal heights. Every other mutant ability she has stems from this one physiological fact. She receives a wider array of sensory input and processes it far faster than normal, which results in a prescient awareness level of even the tiniest shifts of states in her "immediate" environment. (Immediate, in this case, meaning about half-a-mile distance Distance Scale: 1.)
Analogy: The difference between how Olena perceives the world and how most people perceive the world is the difference between a silent film from the early 20th century and the best of high definition digital 3d immersive masterpieces of today... but applied to all 5 natural senses.
Olena can dodge, weave, and block like nobody's business thanks to the milliseconds -- sometimes full seconds -- of lead time her perceptions give her. She's most effective at that when she's in "the flow", however, which can heighten her reaction times to a metahuman level that's tough to beat.
Limitations: She doesn't have super speed or superhuman acrobatic abilities. Her best running speed is that of an Olympic athlete -- providing she's diligent about training. She reacts faster simply because she perceives faster.
Olena can create a zen-like, almost meditative state for herself she calls "potik" (the Ukrainian word for "flow" -- an American might refer to this as "being in the zone"). This focussed state allows her to "see" the ebb and flow of movement and energy around her in real-time. When she's fully focussed, her mind processes the details so quickly and clearly that she instinctively reads the complex patterns of interaction between bodies at rest and those in motion within the space around her. This allows her to unerringly manoeuver the path of least resistance between two points, which makes her seem much faster than she actually is. Usually, she needs to concentrate at least for a moment for it to kick in, but, given her experiences in the past, a good jolt of adrenaline can also activate it.
Clarification: Where Olena's "Flawless Aim" allows her to manipulate the trajectories of any projectiles she uses or intercepts, "Potik" characterizes her own physical spatial navigation. It's not "bullet time". Things don't slow down for her. She just sees where paths open up and uses her "Meta-Reflexes" to take advantage of the new directional options.
As an athlete -- particularly from Eastern Europe -- Olena developed a disciplined, focussed mind that allows her great determination when she needs it. (Some would call it stubbornness.) While this doesn't necessarily give her a greater strength of will than other people, it has allowed her a certain amount of psychological resilience when attempting to overcome setbacks or accomplish difficult tasks. Further, just as she can block out everything around her to focus on hitting a target with an arrow, she can use that disciplined focus to block out or otherwise ignore stimuli that might otherwise distract her from her goal. The one major exception to this is anything related to or that reminds her of Radcha, which can shake her focus even under ideal situations.
Born in western Ukraine, Olena speaks Ukrainian and Russian fluently. She also has a smattering of Polish and, thanks to her Olympic career, a rudimentary familiarity with English. Admittedly, this advantage is more valuable in Eastern Europe than it is in America, but you never know when it might come in handy.
Differentiated from "Free Running" by its lack of ornamentation or excessive acrobatics (Olena isn't an acrobat), Parkour is best characterized by its emphasis on efficient, direct movement. Its practitioners look for the straightest, quickest path between two points, even that means surmounting obstacles such as buildings or walls in the way. Olena learned about the sport as an adolescent and was drawn to it because it so neatly reflected the way she saw the world when in her state of "potik" (flow). In a word, it was fun. Then, she did it because she enjoyed it. Now, she does it because putting herself in potik allows her to forget all the rest of the crap she has to deal with.
Prior to her imprisonment, Olena had no idea she was a mutant. And, throughout her imprisonment, no one actually told her what her "powers" were... thus she was left to speculate and it took quite some time for her to realize it was her perceptiveness and uncanny accuracy that set her apart from regular human beings. (Even now, she finds that hard to believe, though she no longer denies it.) So, like any holocaust survivor, she has a deep distrust of authority and, given the anti-mutant focus of the abuse she suffered, is particularly distrustful of non-mutant authority. (Actually, she's now distrustful of non-mutants in general, for all that she's remarkably adept at blending in with them.)
Olena is in the USA illegally. She was smuggled in by a human/mutant trafficking network in the aftermath of the Poznyar liberation, ostensibly with the promise of freedom and a better life that never actually materialized. She has no money and no ID... nor any easy way to get any (short of further illegal means). There's also that drug scandal hanging over her head. So, she'll do just about anything to avoid dealing with US law enforcement of any kind. With no reason to believe that anyone out there is likely to help her, she's effectively screwed... in more ways than one.
A victim of Ukraine's anti-mutant agenda, Olena was swept up in the pogrom that saw thousands of x-gene carrying Ukrainians relegated to concentration camps and, in too many cases, the gas chambers. She spent three years imprisoned at Radcha and was transferred to Poznyar to die just in time for the X-Men to unexpectedly liberate the camp in the summer of 2012. After that, she became a victim of the human/mutant traffickers that ultimately brought her to the States. Consequently, she suffers from PTSD, which typically manifests as frequent nightmares, occasional flashbacks, and a distinct emotional distancing from present events. Were she to consult one (unlikely to happen, given her distrust of authority), a psychologist might also consider her typically acute situational awareness to be a symptom (i.e. hypervigilance), but her hyper-perceptive abilities muddy that diagnosis considerably.
One of the fastest ways to "control" Olena, or render her powerless, is through the use of sensory deprivation techniques. Her hyper-perception makes it difficult to entirely block out all perceptions, so this is less about blindfolding or binding her and more about placing her in full physical isolation within sensory deprivation tanks or some similar chamber. Most people exhibit signs of anxiety and can be subject to bizarre thoughts and hallucinations when subjected to true sense-dep. Olena hits that wall a lot faster, thanks to her time in a mutant concentration camp north of Radcha, near the Belarus border (the source of most of her angst), where she first encountered the technique. (In fact, nothing scares her more than a sense-dep tank.) She's also particularly susceptible to the "ganzfeld effect" (a.k.a. perceptual deprivation), also used on her in Radcha, which is accomplished by subjecting her to constant, perfectly uniform stimuli that have no discernible variation whatsoever. The ganzfeld effect, in particular, can trigger especially bad flashbacks and hallucinations for her.
Thanks to her mutant abilities (and the fact she didn't realize she was a mutant at the time), Olena was an Olympic medalist in the 2008 Summer Games in archery. Fourteen months later, she was stripped of her medals and her subsequent world titles in a drug scandal that alleged she had been using illegal performance enhancing substances during competition, but had bribed (some said blackmailed) testing officials to look the other way. The fact the allegations were lies, however, isn't known outside of the Ukrainian government. Thus, its effect on her reputation in Olympic and archery-related circles is lasting. She's never been publicly outed as a mutant and she never had the chance to respond personally to the allegations. Thus, her apparent silence was taken as an admission of guilt. Consequently, anyone that does happen to recognize her (probably only Olympics or archery buffs) tends to automatically assume she's a liar, a cheat, and a user. Of course, if she were outted as a mutant, she'd still be considered a liar and a cheat (but not a drug addict) because she used her "powers" to give her unfair advantage against "normal folk". So, she's damned if she does, damned if she doesn't. Chances are the only people that might understand her predicament without extensive explanation are fellow mutants.
Olena is an archer and deadly from a distance as long as she has anything she can throw. She can dodge and avoid being hit exceptionally well. She is not, however, combat trained. Her targets during archery training were buttes, not human beings. Although she's got the spirit of a true scrapper, she doesn't know martial arts or any sort of formal hand-to-hand combat system. Her best hope of surviving an encounter with a trained fighter is a smart throw or a quick dodge followed up by a hasty retreat.
Note: This flaw could change/disappear, if she ever receives training or gets enough practical experience so as to render it untrue.