X-Factor Special: Layla Miller

Issue Date: 
October 2008
Story Title: 
Stuff Happens

Peter David (writer), Valentine DeLandro (penciler), Andrew Hennessy (inker & finisher), Craig Yeung (inker), VC’s Cory Petit (letterer), Jeromy Cox (colorist), Will Panzo & Aubrey Sitterson (editors), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

Layla makes her escape from a mutant encampment center thanks to the timely arrival of some space junk. From there she walks to the city where she sort of befriends a plasma-wielding mutant named Linqon by saving her from the police. A young man named Dwayne sees all this and decides to stalk Layla to learn more about her “knowing stuff.” Next, Layla makes her way to a mutant rights rally where she convinces two youths to join the cause by leaking information on a secret government testing program for all U.S. citizens. Another mission accomplished Layla confronts Dwayne who’s hiding behind a tree and tells him to hotwire a car (he happens to be a car thief) and take her to Atlantic City. Once they arrive they take a stroll down the boardwalk and are met by a girl named Ruby who fires a warning optic blast from her eyes. Once she sees Layla, she relents and tells her to go meet with her father. Layla approaches Cyclops, at first happy to see him, but he calls her a monster and threatens to kill her for everything that’s happened that she could have prevented. Layla explains her side during an emotional breakdown and Cyclops comes to an understanding. A bit later Layla informs Ruby her destiny lies with helping Linqon, a mutant on the run. Ruby is hesitant at first, but with her father’s blessing decides to take up the cause. This eventually leads them to New York City where the people are being officially informed, thanks to the Ethernet leak, of the mutant testing centers, testing which will start immediately. Sentinels land to make sure everyone complies. This is when Ruby blows the head off of one of them and rallies the people below to rebel. Thus begins what will be known as the Summers Rebellion and for the first time in a long time Layla is happy being who she is… and knowing stuff.

Full Summary: 

Mutant Containment Center, Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, NY

Winter, 80 years from now

A pretty bleak and desperate landscape surrounds the Sheepshead Bay mutant containment center. Dilapidated, crumbling buildings can be seen from any direction, Sentinels thrown in every so often for good measure. The only exception is a small field, containing one solitary swing set. This is the direction in which Layla Miller is facing, the only thing between her and the field is a ten foot fence, razor wire adorning the top.
Layla’s been standing in that same spot for eight days straight according to one of the guards watching over the rec yard. They call her the “statue” the guard tells his fellow sentry and he has $100 riding on her. She asks what the hell he’s talking about. He just smiles, resting the butt stock of his rifle over his shoulder, and explains.
According to the male sentry Layla came out one day and drew some lines in the dirt and then just stood there, not moving an inch. His co-worker asks why they didn’t make her go back to her quarters at nightfall. He admits they were planning on it, but started taking bets on how long she’d last until she gave up or keeled over. Curious, she asks how long it’s been then. “Eight days” he replies.
She can’t believe Layla’s been out there over a week. “Yup” the other guard agrees matter-of-factly. He adds that she hasn’t eaten or drank anything except when it snowed a couple of days earlier she stood there with her mouth open and kept swallowing the snow flakes. She even sleeps standing up, the guard finishes.
The woman questions why Layla’s doing it, asking if it’s some sort of protest. The male guard doesn’t care. He just wants his hundred bucks, which will be tomorrow, day nine. The female guard questions whether even Layla knows what she’s doing. Her male counterpart replies, “I have no clue what she knows.”
The day passes as usual, inmates are beaten, some carted away in ambulances dead or close to it. Then the darkness of night falls and with it snow. The next day the snow comes down hard, Layla squints amongst the harsh wind and precipitation. Night falls once more and Layla starts chanting, “One of us… one of us… “
The following day six security guards gather together and walk over to Layla finally fed up with the whole thing. They tell her they’re shutting her down and they don’t care why she’s doing it, what she’s trying to prove or what’s running through her mind. At that last remark Layla responds, “Stuff.”
One of the female guards comments on her croaky voice. Another guard asks her what “stuff” she’s talking about. Layla doesn’t move, just continues looking through the fence, but she does start telling her captors all about space junk. Layla tells them how bits and pieces of satellites fall from orbit every now and again and how eighty years ago China blasted a satellite out of orbit just to se if they could. They made a million pieces of space debris with their little stunt, but not a single person was hit on Earth. She comments on how amazing that is. She adds that only one person in the history of the space program, a woman in Oklahoma a century ago, was hit by space stuff, a piece of a fuel tank from a Delta II rocket and she wasn’t even hurt. One of the guards asks what her point is. Layla, unflinching, says they’re due.
Out of nowhere a giant piece of “space stuff” comes crashing to the ground, crunching at least one guard in the process. A bright flash in the sky signals more incoming debris and the guards start running, some nailed before they can move. As chaos ensues Layla mentions the government used to monitor this type of stuff. More debris falls, a Sentinel is decapitated, and a guard’s back gets shredded. Layla continues that it was decided mutants were a much bigger threat than space stuff so they reallocated funds and shut down the department in charge of it. A piece of metal slams harmlessly into the ground a few inches from Layla’s feet. “If you weren’t all busy dying, I bet we’d share a big laugh over it,” she finishes.
Despite them being dead, Layla tells the guards there’ll be no mass escape since most of the prisoners are hiding in their quarters hiding and praying and by the time they realize it’s safe to come out reinforcements will have arrived and will keep everyone contained. She adds it’ll be at least a day before they realize a prisoner by the name of Layla Miller is gone.
Layla then grabs a piece of the debris and carves something into the ground. She tells the guards who are long past alive that she knew there was a pool going on and in case any of them were curious the winning number was ten. She exits through the torn fence leaving behind a large ‘X’ dug into the ground.
Atlantic City, boardwalk

A man with white hair, in a long black trench coats sits in the middle of a bench overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. A ruby-skinned woman approaches him and rests her right hand on his shoulder. Calling this man “dad” she tells him he should stop doing this. The man only replies, “She’s coming today. I can feel it.” His daughter reminds him he’s been saying that every day for the past 20 years. He agrees with his daughter and looks down at the picture of the girl he’s supposed to be waiting for, Layla Miller, and concedes it may be a stupid thing to believe in.
The daughter walks away and tells him whatever gets him through the day. She then tells her dad to come in before he catches his death. “Catch my death, Ruby… you say that like it’s a threat,” he replies.
Manhattan, downtown

Layla approaches a wig shop where a nearby bum asks her for a fifty. Upon spotting her ‘M’ tattoo he asks Layla what it stands for. “Miller,” Layla responds. The bum then asks what that metal thing in her hand is. Layla tells him he asks a lot of questions. The bum gets defensive and says it’s the only way to get to know stuff. Layla tells him that’s not always the case and then throws the object in her hand through the storefront glass.
The homeless man stands up and asks if she’s crazy, worried the cops will come. Layla says she already knows and is actually counting on it, as is Linqon. The bum asks who Linqon is.
Nearby, the girl in question is running from the police, two squad cars in pursuit as she runs on foot. The police yell for her to surrender. Linqon yells back to leave her alone, that she didn’t ask for any of it. The police tell her it’s her last warning. Linqon, generating some sort of plasma sphere in her hand, tells them it’s actually theirs. She tosses the sphere and it blows through the engine block of the first police car.
The second police car swerves around and continues the pursuit. The officer tells Linqon they know it’ll take a few minutes before she can recharge and promises she’ll be dead or unconscious by then.
Back at the wig shop, Layla’s chosen a piece for her bald head. The owner yells at her through the window that she’s called the police and they’ll be there shortly. She threatens Layla she’ll get what’s coming to her. Layla replies people usually do.
The bum finally decides to leave, telling Layla she’s crazy and tossing his cigarette onto the street. Layla calls back to him and says she’s not crazy, she’s Layla Miller and she knows stuff.
As Layla nears the end of the block she finds Linqon running at her from around the corner. Linqon yells at Layla to get out of the way. Layla assures her everything’s going to be ok. Linqon stops next to Layla for a quick breather and asks how she could know such things. Layla starts to reply with her usual quip, but decides it’s too soon to say it again.
Meanwhile, the police car hot on Linqon’s trail races down the alley unaware of the undercover police car, coming for Layla’s wig shop vandalism, bustling down the street perpendicular to it. The undercover car gets t-boned and fluids start leaking all over the place. Layla grabs Linqon and comments on how she’d have thought they’d have gotten rid of all the gasoline-powered cars by now. A few seconds later the police car explodes, as the gasoline hits the homeless man’s discarded cigarette.
Linqon takes off down the sidewalk. Layla watches her leave and comments on her lack of gratitude. Layla then takes off down the alley. She does not go unnoticed as a teenage boy saw the whole thing and recognizes the fact that Layla seemed to know exactly what was going to happen. He decides to follow her having overheard her say her name was Layla Miler and she knows stuff. He wants to know what other stuff she knows.
Mutant Rights pep rally, nearby

A small gathering of people, most carrying signs, crowd around a man speaking on mutant rights. A few young men sitting off at a near distance listen as the exuberant young man compares the current mutant encampments to the Japanese internment camps of World War II. The speaker goes on to discuss the fear Americans felt of Tojo and Hitler and how innocent Americans suffered due to the same paranoid bias they’re facing now.
The teenager with glasses, goatee and a mechanical device attached to his head above his temple asks his friend who Tojo and Hitler are. His friend with a pink flop of hair in the front and the same mechanical device attached to his head guesses they were musicians and adds he doesn’t really care. “Glasses” agrees and questions if anyone would really care that they’re rounding up mutants.
Layla approaches them from behind and fills them in on the rise of mutant births and how the government can’t identify all of them ahead of time. “Glasses” doesn’t see what the big deal is on that. Layla tells him they’re going to start testing everyone and if you have any mutants in your bloodline going back ten generations you’ll be locked up for observation. “Pink hair” asks for how long. Layla tells him as long as it takes, months, or even years.
Layla lands the coup de grace when she snidely assures them they must know every member of their family going back a couple centuries. Both young men exchange worried glances, though tell Layla they can. Their focus turns back to the speaker who recites the famous “First They Came…” speech.
“First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

“Pink hair” asks what a Trade Unionist and a Communist is. “Glasses” says he doesn’t care, then takes off toward the rally and grabs a sign. “Pink hair” says he’ll be right there and then asks Layla if she’s serious about the whole round-up thing. Layla refers to it as “Operation Purity.” “Pink hair” says he’s going to make sure everyone hears about it. Layla smiles that infamous smile and says she’s sure he will.
Layla leaves, but not before passing a tree and calling out to Dwayne who happens to be hiding behind it. Dwayne pops his head out, “How the hell…?” Layla asks which word he was unclear on “know” or “stuff.”
Dwayne steps out from the shadows and asks if she knew he was following her. Layla tells him ever since the alleyway. Dwayne asks if she has a psychic power that lets her know if someone’s tailing her. Layla tells him he sucks at being sneaky and that even Stevie Wonder would have seen him. Dwayne asks who, but Layla tells him to never mind. She then asks him for a ride.
Dwayne, in his infinite wisdom, tells Layla she’s a little too young for him. Layla calls him a doofus pointing out he’s a car thief. Dwayne cuts himself off before asking how she knew that. Layla ignores his confused mutterings and provides him with her destination, Atlantic City. Dwayne asks why because nobody goes there anymore. He asks what’s in Atlantic City. “Once I’m there? Me,” Layla responds.
As evening starts to fall and the two teens are well on their way heading down the highway Dwayne finally asks about the government mass testing program she mentioned to the two guys earlier. Layla points out they had cyberlinks in their heads just like Dwayne and is betting it’s all over the Internet by now. Dwayne confirms her guess.
Layla is pleased as back in the day misinformation could spread with the speed of light, but now with the speed of thought. By dawn everyone will know, she concludes. Dwayne, keying in on the word “misinformation”, quickly looks over at her and asks if she made it up. Not exactly, she replies. Dwayne asks what she means by that.
Layla tells him a story of a comedian back in 1973 who told a joke on late night TV about there being a toilet paper shortage. And although there really wasn’t one at the time he said it within a week all toilet paper rolls were gone from the supermarket shelves.
Dwayne still isn’t sure what she’s getting at and asks if she was making a joke with the purpose of making it a reality. Layla yawns, admitting it was going to happen someday, she just made it sooner rather than later. She then leans her head against the window and tells Dwayne to wake her when they get there. Dwayne tries asking her what toilet paper is, but she’s dead asleep.
The duo finally arrives and makes their way onto the boardwalk. Dwayne still wants to know what’s so great about Atlantic City. Layla sarcastically says it’s because of the great sunrise. Dwayne tells her he’s serious because after the terrorist attacks practically destroyed the place ten years ago nobody comes around anymore. Layla asks why he came with her if he’s so scared. Dwayne, hands in his coat pockets, says he didn’t know he had a choice. Layla responds that everyone has a choice… except for her. Dwayne asks why not.
Layla explains she’s like a chess piece, as is everyone else. The only problem is she sees everyone’s moves and because of that she doesn’t feel she has a right to make her own moves. “You might say I’ve been rooked,” she finishes.
Dwayne admits he has no idea what she’s talking about and supposes he came with her because he has nothing better to do. Then suddenly the planks in the boardwalk erupt in front of his feet and he falls hard to the ground. The culprit who delivered the powerful optic blast stands before them and orders them to leave. Her stance then softens as she realizes who it is, Layla Miller. Layla agrees and looking at Ruby says she’s his daughter. Ruby asks how she knows. Layla says she has his eyes, not in the color sense, but in the “kill you with a glance” sense.
Ruby puts her shades back on and tells Layla he’s been waiting for her. She then holds out her hand to Dwayne and helps him back to his feet. She introduces herself and Dwayne, eyeing up her reddish skin, asks her if name was just a coincidence. Ruby says it was the name given to her at birth even though her skin was normal at birth. Ruby was the name they were told to give her before she was born. Dwayne asks who told them that. Ruby, staring at Layla as she approaches her father, says she did.
“Cyclops?” Layla calls out to the man sitting on the bench. There’s no response so Layla sidles up from behind. She asks Scott if he can hear her. He still doesn’t answer so she tells him it’s Layla. Cyclops finally gets up from the bench. Coldly, he tells her he knows who she is.
A smile creeps upon Layla’s face. She says how happy she is to see him and starts to remark on all the horrible stuff she had to go through. Unfortunately she doesn’t get the chance to finish because Cyclops smacks her clean across the face. Layla cowers on the ground as Cyclops calls her “a little monster.”
Cyclops stands over Layla and revealing he has a bionic left arm and a partial bionic left leg attached at the knee. Also of importance is his lack of visor. He screams at her he’s been waiting decades to beat the crap out of her or even kill her. He’s furious at her for all the horrible things that have happened, events, deaths, which could have been prevented if Layla only shared the information. He asks if it was all a game. Layla tells him he doesn’t understand. Cyclops yells at her to explain it then. “I can’t,” she cries.
Cyclops yells at her to look at him, look at what they’ve done to him. He holds up his bionic arm and Layla can see his eyes, his bright red eyes with swirling energy and no pupils to speak of.
Layla rips off her wig and stretches out her arms telling Cyclops she didn’t get off easy either. She knew all along what would happen to her even before she leaped into Forge’s time machine. She would wake up screaming in her sleep knowing what was to come, she continues. “But I did it anyway, because I had to! I had to!
Layla explains the atrocities committed against her while in the encampment. She was treated like a piece of meat, shaved, labeled and dehumanized. Tears begin streaming down her face and her voice gets even louder as she questions Scott if he really thinks she wanted any of it. She tells him she only wants to go home and wishes none of this ever happened.
Layla gets to her feet and tells Scott to kill her if he wants to. She starts pounding on his chest and tells him to just do it already. Layla, still crying, closes her eyes and pleads with Scott to just beat her to death, or shoot her or blast her. She doesn’t care anymore she cries; she just wants to stop knowing. She falls down to her knees and begs for it all to end.
Cyclops’ expression turns to one of compassion. He gets down on the boardwalk with Layla and cradles her in his arms. “Shhhhh” Cyclops tries calming her down. He apologizes to her and tells her everything’s going to be ok. Layla says it’s not, but Scott swears that it will.
Not much later Layla poses for the same picture Scott was carrying with him earlier. Ruby comments on how surreal the whole thing is, saying time paradoxes don’t get much more paradoxical than this. Scott takes the new picture from Ruby, telling his daughter she has no idea how twisted these things can get.
Cyclops then hands the new picture to Layla and tells her to give it to him as soon as she gets back home. He then asks if she knows how she’s going to accomplish that. “No,” Layla tells him. Scott asks if she’s serious. Layla says she knows stuff, but not everything. Scott asks if she wants to know. Layla tells him no, because if she doesn’t know then there’s probably a reason for it. Scott supposes she may be right and then mentions he has some clothes waiting for her, if she can believe. Layla says at this point she’ll believe anything.
Summers hideout

Inside a desolate and dilapidated casino a freshly clothed Layla chats it up with the latest addition to the Summers clan, Ruby. Layla asks how long they’ve been hiding out in AC. Ruby says it’s been years, but neither of them needs much food since Scott runs mostly on power cells and she doesn’t need to eat in her ruby form.
Layla asks what would happen if she switched to her normal body. Ruby says she’s afraid to find out as she’s been this way for decades. She guesses she might age nearly seventy years in seconds. Layla sympathizes with her, but tells Ruby there’s something she must do. Ruby asks what she’s talking about. Layla tells her about Linqon and that she’s on the run and afraid. Ruby’s not sure what she’s getting at. Layla says she needs her help and things are about to change, that it’s her time.
“Oh, is it,” Ruby responds, not really believing it herself. Layla tells her she can seize control of her destiny, of mutantkind’s destiny. Ruby tells her she’s crazy. Layla guesses her dad’s told her all about his adventures back in the day. “…endlessly” Ruby replies, but adds she also heard about all the people who died and the “norms” who rejoiced in their deaths, and of course the encampments.
Layla tells her the “norms” are starting to see the error of their ways and it’s all coming to a head. Layla explains she tipped the apple cart a little, but Ruby can get it rolling. “By trying to help this ‘Linqon’ girl?” Ruby asks. Layla replies in the affirmative.
Ruby waves her arm around and questions giving up their safe life. Cyclops overhears this and tells his daughter this is no way to live anyway. Ruby grabs the corner of her shades and drops them down to the tip of her nose. She tells her dad she’s always known that and was hoping he’d realize it someday himself. She then turns to Layla, “Layla… to hell with getting the apple cart rolling. Let’s kick the damned thing over.”
Times Square, New York City

The hustlers and bustlers down on the streets stare up at the recording being broadcast by the Department of Internal Protection. The man in the suit with white hair and white beard greets his fellow Americans with a politician’s smile. He informs everyone of Operation Purity, the operation that was leaked to the public through the Ethernet the day before.
The same man who was rallying students the day before is front and center to the broadcast with his fellow protestors, including Linqon, “Glasses” and “Pink hair.” The firebrand with the bullhorn yells at “the man” and tells him to come down from his ivory tower and try lying to their faces.
The bureaucrat monologues about the difficult decisions they have had to make and makes mention of the testing centers being set up. He tells everyone they will need to report for genetic testing immediately. On one final note the man in the nice suit warns the people if they try to skimp out incentive will be provided. As if on cue, three Sentinels touch down in the vicinity.
The protest leader yells out that the country has gone insane. He tells everyone to stand up and fight. Before he can finish his next sentence he’s taken out by something unknown.
The government man in the video continues his speech, explaining the steps they’re taking are not out of hostility, but out of love for them.
The crowd gets whipped into a frenzy as police in riot gear appear.
“War is peace. Hatred is acceptance,” the white-haired man finishes.
FWAKOOOM… a Sentinel’s head is obliterated by an optic blast originating from a nearby rooftop. Linqon looks upward and sees Ruby and Dwayne, the latter with some sort of electric rail gun.
Ruby introduces herself to the crowd below and tells them they need to stand together, to keep their rights from being trampled and from being imprisoned in the name of freedom. “Today… we rebel!!!” she yells as she finishes her battle cry.
The crowd does rebel and Linqon adds her powers to their arsenal. They take down another Sentinel while the “norms” deals with the riot police. Layla, meanwhile, walks calmly through the swath of destruction, a pen and some papers in hand.
“Dear Diary…

I figured this would be a good day to start you. On April 11, 2003, when Donald Rumsfeld was asked about rioting in Iraq, he said, ‘Think what’s happened in our cities and when we’ve had riots, and problems and looting, stuff happens.’ Well, the stuff that’s happening right now will eventually be known as the Summers Rebellion. A lot of what happens next is still a bit of a wall to me, and I hate that. I hate being unsure. That’s the worst. It makes me too much like everybody else. And I don’t want to be like everybody else. I’m having too good a time being Layla Miller… and knowing stuff.”

Characters Involved: 

Layla Miller

Dwayne, Linqon, Ruby Summers (all Summers Rebellion)

Bigoted bureaucrat

Protest leader, “Glasses”, “Pink hair” and other protesters


Wig shop owner

Story Notes: 

Layla was sent into the future in X-Factor (3rd series) #25 when at the last second she jumped onto a time platform with one of Madrox’s dupes. Once in the future she and the dupe were captured and taken to an encampment where they met a young Bishop. There they learned how the Messiah baby killed over a million humans and sparked the mutant encampments. With this knowledge firm in hand Layla kills the dupe so the information can be sent back to Jamie in the “present.” X-Factor (3rd series) #26-27.
China did shoot down an old weather satellite back on January 11, 2007, which caused an uproar amongst the international community.
On April 27th, 2000, the Delta II rocket fell to Earth and a woman in Oklahoma was hit by a piece of ‘gauze.’ According to the article I found on this topic the only “casualty” from space debris is a Cuban cow that was killed by American space hardware years ago.
The ‘X’ Layla carves into the ground is supposed to represent the Roman numeral 10 for the number of days she lasted, but as we X-ophiles all know it’s also a play on the ‘X’ that permeates most of the mutant titles.
Hideki Tojo and Adolf Hitler were the leaders of Japan and Germany respectively during World War II.
According to Wikipedia Pastor Martin Niemöller’s speech is peppered with controversy over who actually said it and what the original quote was. There are different variations and the one Peter David used is but one of them. The “First They Came…” poem, as it is called, is a cautionary speech warning of the dangers of those who sit idly by while their government persecutes a particular faction of their citizens. In other words, if you don’t stand up for your fellow people and protect them from the government, the government will continue down the path of discrimination and eventually come for you.
Stevie Wonder is a blind songwriter/singer/instrumentalist whose career began in the 60’s, peaked in the 80’s, and is still going today.
PAD is thoroughly enjoying making us readers Google stuff I suppose. Here’s another one: in 1973 there was a toilet paper shortage that lasted approximately three weeks thanks to Johnny Carson. This all took place during the infamous U.S. gasoline shortage and Carson joked toilet paper was going to be next. The next day almost all stores were sold out and once that happened people were even more convinced. Even though a few nights later Carson explained it was a joke it still took a few more weeks until supply met demand.
The term “rooked” has several meanings, but Layla probably used it as a pun. In chess, which she mentions just prior, if one of your pieces is taken by your opponents rook you’ve been “rooked.” Also, “rooked” could mean the act of being screwed over, which would apply to Layla’s inability to act of her own free will.
Although Ruby’s mother is unknown at this time it is fan speculation that Emma Frost would fit the bill given her secondary mutation of diamond hard skin compared to Ruby’s ruby quartz-comprised skin.
When Cyclops tells Ruby time paradoxes can get real twisted he could be referencing a plethora of events from the X-Men’s past. Some of the more personal accounts on his mind could be his alternate-reality “children” Rachel Summers and Nate Grey as well as his real son Nathan who was sent to the future as a young child and returned years later as a man more than ten years his senior.
The government man on the news monitors bears a striking resemblance to actor Donald Sutherland.
It is unclear what exactly happened to the protest leader as he was completely missing in the next panel and no weapons signatures were present. He could have been taken out by a Sentinel or one of the riot police.
The Donald Rumsfeld quote referenced at the end was in response to questions from the press regarding the lack of law and order in the weeks following the U.S. led invasion of Iraq.
The Summers Rebellion was first mentioned by Bishop way back in Uncanny X-Men #287 and since mentioned in Bishop #3 and X.S.E #1.

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