X-Factor (3rd series) #6

Issue Date: 
June 2006
Story Title: 
The Butterfly Defect

Peter David (writer), Dennis Calero (artist), José Villarrubia (colorist), Cory Petit (letterer), Molly Lazer & Aubrey Sitterson (asst. editors), Andy Schmidt (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher), Gabrielle Dell’Otto & Jose Villarrubia (cover art)

Brief Description: 

In the wake of Siryn’s attack, the X-Factor team wrestles with the tough question: If Layla Miller knows stuff, why didn’t she see this coming? Or did she? Their inquiries into this are cut short when a representative from an orphanage comes to return Layla there. X-Factor learns that Layla is a former mutant who was orphaned. She apparently ran away due to the anti-mutant abuse she suffered there. Now that she’s no longer a mutant, the head of the orphanage believes it is safe for her to return. A doctor confirms that Siryn’s injuries are minimal and she will recover eventually. She also makes it clear that the minimal permanent damage was intentional and this attack was clearly a warning. X-Factor believes that Singularity was responsible and Guido and Madrox send a warning of their own to Damian Tryp, Jr. Madrox and Rahne go to the orphanage to see Layla and find that she has been beaten and has two black eyes. She says she deserved it because she did know that Siryn was going to be beaten and let it happen. She explains that she has the ability to see the future and can influence it by taking small actions that alter what may happen. She chose not to intervene on Siryn’s behalf because she knew that it was supposed to happen. She mysteriously refuses to state the source of these abilities and claims she will die if she tells anyone. The head of the orphanage refuses to give X-Factor legal custody of Layla, but makes it clear that if she were to leave again there would be no further efforts to find her. Layla returns to X-Factor where a suspicious Rictor accuses her of blackening her own eyes to win sympathy. He warns her that he’ll be watching.

Full Summary: 

The staff of X-Factor Investigations has gathered around their severely injured teammate, Theresa Cassidy. Siryn refuses to go to a hospital despite her injuries and the others try to figure out who is responsible for the beating she endured. They express concern that whoever attacked Siryn might try to finish the job if she’s admitted to a hospital. There’s also concern about how news of Siryn’s beating might impact the perception of X-Factor publicly, given that for many they are the last line of protection in a very hostile world following the effects of M-Day. The team talks about all of this as if Theresa isn’t even there, despite her efforts to remind them of her presence.
As they debate how to handle things, Rictor states that this is all Layla’s fault. During the entire discussion, Layla has been hanging back, silently listening to the others as a butterfly enters the room and lands on her finger.

Madrox attempts to assert himself in Layla’s defense and Rictor tells him to shut up. Ric points his finger accusingly at Layla and says that she came out of nowhere, claiming to “know stuff”. He’s convinced that she sent him to the gas station days earlier knowing that the girl he met there needed his help.
Guido tries to interrupt but Ric will not be deterred from voicing his suspicions. He goes on to note the way the assassin coming after him just happened to be in the right place at the precise moment to be electrocuted. Ric edges in on Layla and demands to know what’s going on and whether she knew what was about to happen to Siryn and if so, why she did nothing to stop it. Madrox steps in and begins to tell Rictor to back off when Siryn speaks up and says that she’d like to hear the answer to that herself.

Layla doesn’t respond. The butterfly is still perched atop her index finger as she turns and leaves the room. Before Rictor can go after her, Guido speaks up. He tells Rictor that he knows he’s angry about his power loss and that they all owe him for rescuing Siryn, but despite that if he doesn’t stay out of Layla’s face he swears that he’ll kill him. At this point, Madrox steps in and says that’s enough. He says that Siryn stays here and he’ll see to getting her some proper medical attention beyond the patch up job he did using his paramedic training.

Rahne goes to check on Layla who is sitting on the stoop outside. Rahne asks what she’s doing and Layla replies “Waitin’ for things to happen.” Rahne explains that she’s just returning from church and invites Layla to join her sometime. She asks Layla’s religion and the girl replies that she’s “between religions right now”. Rahne asks what that means and Layla shares that her parent died, she was orphaned and she’s got more pressing things on her mind than God at the moment.
Rahne starts to reach out and Layla interrupts, telling her about Siryn’s condition. Rahne asks by who and Layla corrects her and tells her the proper phrase is “by whom”. Rahne corrects her syntax and asks again who is responsible. Layla tells her that Rictor said that she is. Rahne declares this nonsense and that Rictor is being a jerk and Layla admits that he’s right. Rahne is shocked and asks if she truly was the one who hurt Siryn.
Layla has no time to answer. At that moment, Mrs. Charnoff from St Joan Orphanage arrives to bring Layla back where she belongs. She says that Layla called them and they’ve been worried since her sudden disappearance. Layla admits to Mrs. Charnoff that she ran away but that X-Factor has been looking after her. She introduces Rahne to Mrs. Charnoff, who expresses her relief. Rahne is confused and asks for some clarification on Layla’s situation. Mrs. Charnoff puts her arm around Layla and explains that Layla’s parents died in an auto accident and that during her time in the orphanage there were some incidents.

Rahne asks what types of incidents and Layla explains that she was a mutant with horns who could breathe fire and the other kids freaked out. She says she’s not a mutant anymore though. Mrs. Charnoff seems unusually pleased by this and says there’ll be no more problems once she’s back.
Rahne is not so certain as she’s seen firsthand how “embracing” people in Mutant Town have been of former mutants, now that they’re no longer a threat.
As they turn to leave, Mrs. Charnoff comments on Layla’s butterfly. Layla tells her that it’s dead and that it settled down on her hand and died. She says “bye” to Rahne who watches her go and then picks up the dead butterfly. She eyes it with a mixed expression of concern and curiosity.

(Layla’s memories)

Layla remembers her parents as a perfect suburban couple. Her mom talks to her in honeyed words and offers her fresh baked muffins. Her father calls her “butterfly” and they both tell her how glad they are that she’s back and how much they love her.

The memory is interrupted by Mrs. Charnoff prompting the other orphans to tell Layla how good it is to have her back. The other kids look anything but pleased as they frown and sneer. Layla doesn’t look so happy either but says obligingly that it’s great to be back.

Back at X-Factor’s offices, a van marked “Castillo Pet Shampoo” is parked outside. Rictor asks what kind of doctor would drive around in such a truck and Madrox tells him “the kind who wants to keep a low profile”. Monet asks if she’s legit and Madrox assures her that she is. Ric asks how they know just as Dr. Castillo walks in. She comments on how great it feels to have your credentials questioned and Madrox tells her that his colleagues are just concerned. She replies that as a doctor it’s her job “not to give a crap”, so it all balances out.
She compliments Madrox on his stop-gap work on Siryn as she removes her rubber gloves. She tosses them to Monet and asks her to toss them. Monet asks the woman if she looks like a maid and Dr. Castillo replies that given her line of work she looks like a future patient. She snidely says that she’d hate to suture M’s next gaping wound with a blunt needle and again tells her to throw away the gloves. Monet sneers at the woman with her usual “whatever” response.

Dr. Castillo and Madrox look in on Theresa and the doctor notes that she’s given her something for the pain. She lists off Siryn’s injuries which include minor hairline fractures but no broken bones or internal bleeding. She theorizes that a wooden club or bat was used given the splinters she removed. Madrox notes that Terry was lucky and Dr. Castillo corrects him. She tells him that whoever beat Theresa up knew exactly how to hurt her the most but with minimal permanent damage. She says that this was a warning and if they had wanted Siryn dead, she would be.

At that moment, Rahne interrupts and tells Jamie they need to talk. He tries to tell her it’s not a good time and she insists and tells him it’s about Layla. Rahne fills Jamie and Guido in on what’s happened with Layla. Despite the mystery surrounding X-Factor’s young hanger-on and the little she has shared with them about herself and her way of knowing things, Jamie can’t help but feel that she somehow belongs there.
Guido interrupts and says that he thinks it was Singularity who attacked Siryn. Jamie asks why and Guido mentions that Singularity killed Siryn’s informant when she got too close to the truth and that X-Factor just took down their major movie star client. He suspects that the attack on Siryn was payback. Jamie asks if he has any ideas on how to reply to this warning. Guido smiles grimly and says “I surely do”.

Later that day, Damian Tryp, Jr. is jogging through Central Park. Guido jogs up next to him and tells him to keep running, they’re going to have a little talk. Guido mentions that he enjoyed the write-up about Tryp in the New Yorker and that it was nice of him to share his favorite Sunday afternoon jogging route. Tryp asks what Guido has on his mind. After exchanging faux pleasantries, Guido says that he knows what Tryp or one of his people did and sooner or later, he’s going to make him pay. Tryp stops and asks snidely, “You and what army?” Guido replies “Funny you should ask” and in the next clearing is a sea of Madroxes, upwards of fifty dupes stand in the woods glaringly at Tryp.
Jamie notes that despite the problems he’s had getting his dupes under control lately, they can all stand together when it comes to defending their own. Especially after the brutal attack on someone they care about like Theresa.

As Rahne and Jamie drive to St. Joan Orphanage, they discuss the encounter with Tryp. Jamie says they can’t prove anything, but perhaps their warning to Tryp will make him nervous and then he’ll make a mistake that will cost him. Both are convinced that Tryp and Singularity were behind Theresa’s beating.
They arrive at the orphanage and Rahne notes that the both of them are orphans as well. They guess that Layla’s powers manifested shortly before M-Day and that she may well have ended up at Xavier’s if things hadn’t shifted so dramatically following the Decimation. Rahne guesses that following M-Day she ended up with all the anti-mutant bias and none of the perks of being a mutant and this is why she sought refuge with X-Factor.
The two meet with Mrs. Charnoff who refuses to let them see Layla. She notes that they have no legal standing for visitation and then makes a somewhat veiled slight against them for being mutants. Rahne reacts by turning into her transitional wolf form and sneers at the woman. She tells Jamie that she has Layla’s scent and they can find her without this woman’s help. As Rahne leads the way, Jamie apologizes to the terrified Mrs. Charnoff and explains that Rahne sometimes gets a little “testy”.

Rahne tracks Layla with ease and Jamie notes that Wolfsbane can be single-minded and scarily effective when she focuses on getting something done. He’s not sure whether to envy this trait of hers or fear it and decides to do both. He realizes that as a multiple man, he tries to be all things to all people, whereas Rahne just claws her way through life and adversity.
They find Layla in a playroom and are appalled to see that her face has been beaten and she is sporting a pair of black eyes and several bruises. Rahne asks who did this to her and she replies “No one.” Rahne asks again more insistently and when Layla tries to tell her it’s nothing, Rahne transforms into her wolfoid form and screams out at the other children, demanding to know which of them did this to Layla. They all run away screaming and Jamie snidely compliments her on her interrogation techniques.
Rahne tries to console Layla who tells her that she deserved it. She explains that she really did know what was going to happen to Siryn and that she may have been able to stop it if she just flapped her wings. Madrox is confused by this and Layla asks if he knows about chaos theory. He says that he does since one of his dupes took a semester of quantum physics. He asks how she knows about it. She says that Jeff Goldblum explained it really well in Jurassic Park.
Basically, the theory suggests that the flapping of a single butterfly’s wings has the potential to cause a much greater effect as it influences the weather systems around it enough to create a tornado where one may not have arisen without the butterfly’s presence. Layla explains that this is what she does. She senses what is to come in advance and how things might turn out and if things are not going the way they are supposed to, she can alter it by doing some little things that influence the future. She says that she knew Theresa was going to be hurt and she let it happen because she knows that it was supposed to.
Jamie asks how she knows these things and Layla explains that she can’t tell him, she knows how she knows these things but if she tells him, she will die. She knows that telling this secret will cause her to be “struck down” and asks Jamie not to make her die. Jamie and Rahne look at each other, both stunned by what they have learned.

Rahne and Madrox meet with Mrs. Charnoff who refuses to allow them to take custody of Layla. She states that she is confident that they would never be approved as foster parents or allowed to adopt her. Rahne asks if she’ll be stuck there until she’s of age and when Mrs. Charnoff says yes, Rahne says they’ll fight it. Mrs. Charnoff coldly tells them that they’ll lose.
As they are about to leave, Mrs. Charnoff says that she hopes Layla doesn’t escape again and that if she did, even in the company of adults, that she wouldn’t even have the first clue where to look for Layla. She adds that with all the paperwork piling up, she’s not even sure she’d find the time to report it. It might all just slip through the cracks. She looks up at them with an odd but knowing look.

Later, Layla is sitting on the stoop outside X-Factor’s offices playing with the dead butterfly. Rictor is there with her and asks if she’s staying there now. Layla replies that she is. Rictor asks if she’s having fun playing with the dead butterfly and she says “kinda”. He comments on her black eyes and says that the rumor is some kids did that to her. Layla replies that she heard that, too. Rictor adds that it would have been easy enough for her to do that to herself and maybe she set it up to get sympathy from Rahne and Jamie. Layla simply says that that’s an interesting thought. As he leaves, Rictor says “I’ll be watching you, Butterfly.” And Layla says “okay.” She smiles softly as the once-dead butterfly on her finger takes flight.

Characters Involved: 

M, Madrox, Layla Miller, Rictor, Siryn, Strong Guy, Wolfsbane (all X-Factor Investigations)
Mrs. Charnoff
Doctor Castillo
Damian Tryp, Jr.
Unnamed orphans at St. Joan Orphanage
In Flashback:

Layla Miller’s parents

Story Notes: 

Based on the descriptions given in this issue, Layla’s mutant power seems to involve the ability to foresee possible future events and timelines and specifically, to comprehend how her slightest actions (or inactions) can shift future events. Her new codename (if that’s what it is) “Butterfly” and the butterfly motif in this issue are derived from the “Butterfly Effect” theory. It’s interesting to note that the Butterfly Effect is tied to “chaos theory”, given that Layla played a pivotal role in the HOUSE OF M storyline. The Scarlet Witch’s powers have often been described using terms such as “chaos vs. order” and “chaos magic”. Many readers have theorized that there is some unseen connection between the Scarlet Witch and Layla Miller and the use of the Butterfly Effect as a descriptor for Layla’s abilities adds further weight to this theory.

Jeff Goldblum is an actor who has appeared in numerous films notably the Jurassic Park franchise films, which Layla references.

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