At first scan, there's a few things that stand out about Penny. She seems very nice - just something in her general demeanor that seems kind and non-threatening. She also seems very awkward- it often comes across as shyness, but it's not actually that. She has no trouble approaching people or speaking to them - it's more that she struggles with the flow of conversation, always overanalyzing her own responses, or struggling to come up with something to say until she 'clicks' with someone, or on a topic. Then she talks with ease - sometimes too much, overpowering the conversation without realizing it.
She's incredibly passionate, and hates apathy - to the point of having no qualms in confronting people she who 'don't care', no matter if it's someone she's just met, or even first dates. She has a tendency towards melancholy, and it becomes especially pronounced when she feels frustrated or defeated by circumstances in her life or in society more generally.
Because she naturally tends to feel down, she purposefully puts into practice a more optimistic mindset. She also tries to see and assume the best in people. Even if she has a weird feeling about someone, she is more likely to write off her own feelings and put more stock into the evidence of their actions and assume they are genuine. This has, on more than one occasion, led to trouble or let someone take advantage of her.
Penny has the ability to spread a sense of calm and general happy feeling over people, almost like a sedative. She is essentially 'pushing' this feeling into their minds, overwriting whatever their current motivations are. They will feel similar to how one feels when they are pleasantly sleepy, and while they remember what they were doing and why, they just don't generally care about it anymore. Often times, they will sit down, sometimes even lie down if especially affected. When used on only one person, the effect takes about 15 minutes to wear off, 3-5 for a group, and will begin wearing off the moment Penny stops mentally 'pushing' the feeling on them. She currently can push the feeling for about 1 minute. These limitations, both the 'push' time and the wear off time, will improve as she trains.
Penny's powers, though they make people feel 'better', cannot do anything like cure depression or so on - the person will return to their previous state as soon as her influence wears off. As mentioned, it doesn't last very long, but this will improve with time. Using her power is physically taxing for Penny, causing her to feel exhausted and her head to hurt any time she uses it. If she pushes it too long, it becomes difficult to stand, she gets spots in her vision, her ears ring, and she can even pass out.While the length of time she can go without experiencing these symptoms (except exhaustion, though even that will be lowered) they will always exist if she pushes to the edge or past her limits.
She's good at organizing (both in terms of cleaning and events), persevering, listening. She plays high school softball, and is pretty good at it, but was better at baseball. She speaks Spanish very well, but can only read a little, and can barely write it at all.
Activism and volunteering, with a focus on local and ecological issues - she tends to gets involved in as many activities as time permits. She LOVES to read, always has a stack by her bed, and keeps a book in her purse to pull out whenever she’s got a few minutes free. She likes watching and playing baseball, and plays softball for her school.
(warning: family death and mental health issues)
The first half of Penny’s childhood was fairly unremarkable. She grew up in Oxnard, CA, as the only child of Kevin, middle school counselor, and Rebecca, a high school teacher, O’Neill. Her family always straddled the line between lower and middle class, and lived in an apartment close to the rest of her mom’s family in the school district her parents worked for. She was always a little awkward, and struggled with social anxiety and depressive tendencies from an early age, but she loved her family, had a couple of good friends, and didn't mind spending time alone.
When she was thirteen, her parents had planned to make a trip out to see Kevin's family in Phoenix, Arizona. Penny was supposed to go along, but got the flu that week. They thought about canceling the trip, but her maternal grandmother offered to keep Penny instead, knowing that Kevin hadn't had a chance to see his family in a several years. On their way home, there was a horrible accident, and both Kevin and Rebecca were killed.
Penny's aunt and uncle became her legal guardians, and the adjustment was rough - they were only in their late 30s and had a toddler of their own. Additionally, Penny's mental health issues plummeted - she struggled with basic function, started having frequent panic attacks, and her depressive tendencies turned into full-blown depression so severe that she eventually became suicidal. She took a leave of absence from school to focus on her mental health, including spending some time at an in-patient mental health program for her own safety, and intense therapy, both on her own and with her family, for some time afterwards.
Recovery wasn’t easy - even after she was back in school, she was prone to angry outbursts and other forms of acting out. She became even more isolated from her peers, because instead of just being the slightly strange and quiet girl, she was now known as the ‘that weird girl from middle school who went crazy after her parents died’, including rumors and exaggerations about her behavior, and her time in a facility.
However, as difficult a time as this was, her treatment was working - they found a medicine regimen that helped, helped her process her trauma, and her therapist helped her learn to channel her feelings into action through sports, volunteering, and activism. Penny found that, even though she couldn't fix the things that happened in her own life, it made her feel less helpless if she could work to make other people's lives better. This gave her both an outlet and a sense of purpose. In the years since, she’s become well adjusted - she still struggles with feelings of depression and anxiety despite medication, but to the point where she can handle it. She still struggles with her reputation and making friends, but throwing herself into a ton of projects helps distract her, and keeps her from feeling isolated.
Compared to all this, the way her powers manifested seemed almost mundane - while cutting through the park to walk home, she saw an older boy picking on a younger one. She intervened, and when the older boy got up in her face, she accidentally used her powers for the first time to calm him down and get him to back off. She didn't tell her family at first, but she accidentally did it a few more times before her family was approached at Xavier's. While Penny suspected she might be a mutant, it was still a shock to have it confirmed. She was offered a place at the school, but she and her family decided against it - with all the change and upheaval in Penny's life, they didn't want to change things for her yet again.
However, within about eight months, they changed their minds. Mutants were coming more and more into the public eye. Additionally, Penny wanted to learn more about mutants and her abilities, since she had (at least as far as she knows) never met any other mutants before, and had only spoken to them in online forums. They all decided together that she would go, and once she finished out her freshman year of school, she moved to Xavier’s to start the summer.