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// Larissa via Shad0 at Griffith Park, LA (May 20)
Shad0's report (posted originally at unfiction):

I arrived at Griffith Park, near the location of the arrow on Larissa's map, just a few minutes before 6:00 p.m. Pacific time. I wandered around aimlessly for a bit, hoping to spot someone that I'd never met before, who in all likelihood didn't even know that I was coming. Nothing shaped like a labyrinth leapt out at me. Several joggers passed. Some cars sped by.

One of the cars slowed and honked, and the driver (I think she was female) made a "This way!" gesture before continuing south. I briefly debated getting back in my car and following her, but decided to continue exploring the immediate vicinity first, since (a) I didn't think she had looked like Larissa; (b) I wasn't sure I had interpreted her gestures correctly; (c) I didn't even know that she was gesturing at me; and (d) there was a stop sign there, so for all I know she was really flipping off the car in front of her. (And (e) it could have been someone from The Opposition intentionally trying to distract me!)

I looked across the street and saw what appeared to be a young woman doing something in the vicinity of a tree. (Someday I'll stop pretending that I don't need glasses.) I crossed the street and wandered a bit further into the park. Off to one side I saw a man by himself wrestling with something that might have been a canvas folding chair. The park seemed empty other than him and the young woman by the tree. I got closer her to her, and noticed that she seemed to be looking at the ground. Promising.

She looked up and noticed me staring at her, and fortunately instead of hollering for a park ranger she called out "Hi!" in a friendly manner. I waved back. We regarded each other momentarily, and then I said, "Larissa?" Her entire face lit up, as if to say, "Finally, someone who knows who I am!" It was really quite charming. I said that I didn't speak a word of Portuguese, and I really hoped that she could speak some English. Fortunately, she does, if a little haltingly.

I introduced myself. Larissa looks exactly like her picture. She's probably in her early or mid-twenties, which immediately triggered my overprotective avuncular instincts (along with my unfortunate tendency to babble). She told me that she'd already walked her personal labyrinth once, but that somehow it didn't feel right. Someone had recommended that she use paint to mark it, because neither pen nor chalk work very well on grass. I looked at the barely-visible blue lines in the grass, and mentioned that I just happened to have some yarn with me (Thanks, T.L. Ring!) and offered to fetch it from my car. She was very grateful.

On the way back from my car I gathered some small rocks to hold the yarn in place. We unraveled the clew and traced the outline of the labyrinth that Larissa had drawn. It didn't look quite right. Fortunately Larissa had brought some paper and a pen -- she had tried to draw the labyrinth on paper before laying it down on the grass -- and when she passed them to me I tried to remember how to lay out a three-circuit labyrinth. And after a bit of experimentation, I actually managed to remember it correctly! It looks sorta like this.

While we set up the labyrinth, we chatted a little bit about the state of things. She asked if I had seen Ariadne's latest video (which I had), and what I thought about it -- whether I thought Ariadne had really seen herself cause the deaths of her family. I told her that I didn't think so and why, and Larissa said she agreed.

(Incidentally, what I think is this: Ariadne is leaping to an unwarranted conclusion. Even if her actions are responsible for the recent changes in the graph, it isn't necessarily a bad thing. The point of synchronization is to encourage worlds to merge. If there are fewer "blue" worlds -- Gaia worlds like ours -- it doesn't necessarily mean that the others have been destroyed. It could just as easily mean that they are merging with each other, exactly as we are trying to get them to do. I gotta send Ariadne an email. But first things first.)

Larissa was feeling a little anxious about walking her personal labyrinth. She said that she didn't feel bad about it, exactly, but also that she didn't feel good. Nevertheless, she definitely felt that this was something she ought to do. She had brought some sort of video recorder, so I taped her as she walked slowly from the outside of the labyrinth to the center, paused for a moment, and made her way back out. (She'll probably post the video on her blog. Apologies in advance for my lousy camera work.)

She seemed a tiny bit shaken, but told me that she had seen something, a vision. It was a face. A male, she thought. He had a scar or some other marking on his left cheek. One of his eyes, his right eye, looked as if it had something wrong with it -- it was a different color than the other. She had felt as if the face was chasing her... her and Renata. Renata had been in the vision with her.

Larissa was unclear on many of the details. She and Renata had been somewhere with buildings, some sort of city, not in a natural area like Griffith Park. I asked if she had seen any signs or writing on the buildings, and if so what language they might have been, but she had not. I asked if she had the feeling that this was a memory -- something that had already happened to one of her other selves -- or more of a vision of the future, or somehow perhaps even a message from Renata, but she couldn't tell.

She seemed frustrated with her inability to remember, and decided to walk the labyrinth again. I asked if there were something I could do to help, and only half-seriously offered to hum a song that used to have special meaning for Larissa and Renata. She grinned, and said that it actually might help if I hummed for her as she walked, the way that the human walls hum during training labyrinths. So I did.

After her repetition, Larissa needed to sit down. She told me that her vision began at an intersection in a city, surrounded by tall buildings. Nearby was one of those coin-operated newspaper dispensers, a black one. Larissa felt as if it were someplace where they spoke English -- more specifically, it felt like "here," but she couldn't be sure whether "here" meant Los Angeles or California or the United States. It was definitely somewhere flat, not hilly (we were on a slope in Griffith Park, with the Hollywood Hills overlooking us). Based on the tall buildings, it could have been downtown L.A.

Renata was there, and she hugged Larissa and was delighted to see her. She said some things to which Larissa didn't pay much attention -- she was too caught up in being glad to see her friend -- and then Renata looked down the street and said (in Portuguese), "We have to go from here." Larissa looked and saw someone -- she couldn't be sure if it was the man from her previous vision -- and then she and Renata fled. And after running for a time, Larissa suddenly saw that scarred male face again, and with it the sensation of being separated from Renata, as if whoever it is wanted to keep them apart. And the vision ended.

We spoke quite a bit more, and I hope I can remember everything significant. Larissa has been in email contact with James, who assures her that Renata is fine and is working with them voluntarily, but is too busy to talk to Larissa herself. Larissa mentioned that she was thinking of trying to become a double agent, pretending to join The Opposition, just so that she could see Renata. She also mused about trying to get a message to Renata somehow, in such a way that James and the others wouldn't know what it really said.

Larissa asked if we had been in contact with the rest of Renata's six. I told her -- correctly, I hope -- that as far as I knew we had not. I also said, though, that for all we knew Theo, Thermantia, and James could all have been agonothetai four years ago. I doubt it, but we don't have any evidence one way or the other. It is possible that we have met others of Renata's group, and just don't know it.

She also asked if I thought Kai was working with Theo. I told her that, although I had some suspicions originally, I didn't think that trying to bring James back to our side was something that an ally of Theo would do. I added, however, that I was a bit worried about Kai making his plans so public, since we know that The Opposition reads the online forums, and if if I were one of James's allies and found out that Kai and some friends were planning to waylay James after work next week, I'd darn well make sure that there were some other people there.

Larissa also said that she had been feeling a little guilty for concentrating only on finding Renata instead of on trying to save the multiverse, but that she now felt they were connected. I told her she had nothing to feel guilty about: first, Larissa's strength is Chariton, so being concerned for other people is her nature. Second, finding Renata is extremely important if we want to know what went wrong last time, which we do. Third, we know that Theo has information that we need, so if Renata is working with them -- voluntarily or involuntarily -- she may have access to that information. Lastly, Renata is Larissa's friend, and I don't think it can ever be wrong to be concerned about a friend.

She asked for my email address, which I gave her along with my cell phone number in case she needed immediate assistance with anything. We started walking back to her vehicle, and as we strolled she asked if I knew what Theo's motivation was. I told her we know that The Opposition wants desynchronization, and actively supports Neopangaea. I think it's because they want a new Atlantis, and they are willing to sacrifice literally billions of lives to attain that goal. She said it sounded like they think of themselves as the "elite," worthy to survive such a catastrophe, and reminded her of a sort of cult. That made me chuckle, thinking of all the religious cults in Real Life(tm) who are so positive that they will be the chosen ones to survive the end of the world.

Anyway, Larissa reiterated that she couldn't believe Renata was the kind of person who would voluntarily align herself with a cause that would result in billions of deaths. She asked if I thought it was possible to know someone, really know someone, in only three months. I said yes, absolutely... but then I felt that I had to remind her that Theo has had Renata for four years, and Renata might have had her mind changed. I hoped not, but it was at least a possibility.

I suggested that Larissa contact James, and intimate that she is having doubts and considering switching her allegiance. However, she doesn't know if she can believe James when he says that Renata is working with them willingly. After all, they said that Markus had joined them voluntarily, but now we know that was a lie. Larissa should ask to communicate with Renata directly. She seemed to think this was a really good idea, so perhaps she'll follow through on it.

I also suggested that, if James agreed, she'd need to ask Renata something that only Renata would know, to make sure it was really her. I jokingly suggested she ask Renata to send her some earrings that matched her necklace. Larissa grew suddenly quiet, and I wondered if I'd said something wrong. Then she said that she should have brought the necklace with her to show me, but she didn't know that anyone she could trust was going to be there. I reluctantly pointed out that she didn't know she could trust me; for all she knew, I could be another operative of Theo. She protested that I'd helped her with the labyrinth, but I told her that James and Kai had helped us with the labyrinth training up in San Francisco, and now we know that James is part of The Opposition. She nodded (but fortunately I think she is still inclined to trust me).

Larissa said that she was glad that I had come. In the beginning, she said, she had received a lot of emails from Americans offering to help her find Renata. As time passed, however, it seemed to her that the Brazilian forum was actually more focused on helping; unfortunately, they're all in Brazil. She said she was very happy to have met me. I returned the compliment, and asked her to feel free to use the email address and phone number I had given her whenever she wanted.

It grew late, and the shadows lengthened, and so we parted.

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