By the time she reached Truth or Consequences she was starving, boiling in the saddle, and fairly certain her legs, hips, and ass would never again know full sensation. The city itself, which stood somewhere between Deming and Hatch in condition, contained a few scarecrows of people far more afraid of the sound of the Slark engine in her bike than she was of them. She was clearly human, but none of the people in the decrepit buildings seemed to want to know anything else about her. She slowed briefly, enough to get her bearings, and then pushed the bike, which by that point was bellowing steam and making awful noises, toward the Elephant Butte reservoir. The weather-beaten signs guided her in reasonably short order to the state park landing. Water was harder to find, what with the dam effectively reduced to rubble by who knows what. Gieo brought the bike to a stop beneath a massive picnic table enclosure that had somehow survived the years. The water would be a short walk over open enough ground for her to see back up to her bike if necessary.
Lowering the bike’s pod legs to hold it in place required manual cranking as not enough water remained in the system to even run the hydraulics. Out of the saddle, everything in her body screamed at the change of position. Her lower back ached, her legs felt like jelly, and her butt was numb beyond anything she could have imagined. She unhooked the two brass reservoirs on the sides of the bike and began her slow trek down to the water. Without much of a dam to hold the reservoir, much of the lake had leaked out, leaving her to walk a fair distance over sun-baked lakebed before finally reaching the water. Along the way she passed the bleached remains of trees, rocks, and even giant skeletons of great catfish two or three feet in length, picked clean by scavengers and left to turn to dust in the desert sun. Gieo peeled off her helmet, scarf, goggles, and boots to stand with her feet in the cool water, leaning down occasionally to splash handfuls of the lake over her head, face, and neck. The afternoon sun caught on the water’s surface, creating shimmering patterns over the bluer than blue lake.
When she’d brought her internal temperature down enough for comfort, she shielded her eyes from the sun to gaze out over the beauty of the lake, not natural specifically considering it was a man-made reservoir, but natural enough. She felt like a pioneer or explorer, two feelings she’d never considered the value of but suddenly really enjoyed. If she had one wish, it would be that Fiona could share the feelings with her. Of course, she would need two wishes to transport Fiona there and also grant her forgiveness.
Gieo settled her goggles back over her eyes, slung her helmet and scarf over one shoulder and set to refilling the bike’s water tanks. The great brass canisters were ludicrously heavy by comparison when filled, and Gieo found the hike back up the hill a good deal harder than the one down. To add to the difficulty, the numbness that had gripped her lower body retreated like the waters of the lake, only to leave her with profoundly inflamed muscles not used to the type or vigor of the exercise of riding such a massive motorcycle over such long distances. Nearly to the bike, with most of her cooling-off work entirely undone by the hike back out of the lakebed, she spotted movement under the awning. She dropped the canisters beneath a shade tree without a second thought and slid the Winchester from her back.