“It is not safe outside. You should reconsider.”

Lagar only spoke when it thought Millicent was about to do something foolish. Normally, the stuffed alligator was just like the other animals in the playroom, like Ursa the bear or Eke the zebra. But–and this might have been because he was Millicent’s favorite–he would sometimes speak warnings.

“I want to see the sunshine,” Millicent said, pushing on the door. She’d learned through careful testing, how to rock it open enough to stick a toy block in and lever it open.

Lagar whirred as he looked up at Millicent. “You could be injured,” he said. “You should stay here.”

The noises that Lagar made, those clicks and squeaks, made Millicent think that he wasn’t completely fluff all the way through. Similar sounds came from the lunch table when it dispensed food, and when the classroom screens came down to show videos or dispense homework.

“Why should I stay here?” Millicent said. “I want to see the sky.” It was in so many of the videos, and in her science lessons, but she’d never seen it.

“Things are dangerous outside the playroom, and there is likely no sky to see,” said Lagar. “Do you remember when you tried to climb through the lunch table?”

Millicent touched her arm, rubbing the small ridge of scarring left once the cast had fallen off. “That’s different,” she said. “The door’s not going to break my arm.”

“It might,” said Lagar. “There might be something worse out there. Have you thought about that?”

“I like you better when you’re quiet,” Millicent said. She pressed the wooden block harder, only to be sent roughly to her rear when it splintered.

“See?” said Lagar.

“Yeah,” Millicent muttered. “I see.”

Behind the one-way glass, the project manager spoke into a microphone. “The butterfly has not yet left the chrysalis,” she said. “But it was close. We need to plan for when it happens.”

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