The problem with Rainbow Dash was her addiction to adrenaline.
Nobody was sure if it was a metaphorical addiction or a literal one. She didn't do drugs, thankfully enough--she was, as she said, a purist, and the only things she'd willingly put in her body were things that would keep her alive (and Pinkie Pie's sweets, because nobody could deny Pinkie Pie when she pulled the puppy-dog pout). Still, she would get twitchy if she wasn't doing anything exciting for a week or two. It didn't happen often--she was involved in all the sports teams at Canterlot High, after all, and that was before the whole thing with magic happened--but on rare, unfortunate occasion, she would end up with a need to do something, anything, to prove she was alive.
Never before had she gone a month without something extreme. But the soccer game had been called due to sudden rain. Then the beach trip. Then the amusement park. And then, when she had thought she'd figured it out and signed up for mud sports, there wasn't a single cloud in the sky... up until she gave up, headed for the mall, and was suddenly hit by a deluge.
"Damn it," she growled, slumping into a chair at the food court.
Sunset Shimmer winced. "...bad day?"
"Bad month. Rain, rain, rain... I just want to do SOMETHING but there's always rain!" A sopping rainbow mess hit the table. "Sometimes I wish I could control the weather."
Sunset hummed in commiseration. "Yeah, unscheduled storms take some getting used to."
One magenta eye peeled off the table, glowering at Sunset. "Unscheduled storms?"
"I mean, back in Equestria the pegasi handled the weather." The amber-skinned girl sipped her drink. "Funny thing, I think your counterpart is actually the head weathermare for Ponyville... of course there would be slip-ups, bureaucratic mishandling on occasion, but at least we knew who to complain to."
Slowly, carefully, Rainbow Dash rose her head. "Huh. Really?" Her tone was one of polite interest. "How do they do that?"
"Oh, they're natural cloudwalkers," Sunset explained casually. "They used to live up in the sky constantly--before the unification. So they figured out how--"
She caught sight of the gleam in Rainbow's eye.
"Don't even think about it," Sunset warned. "One pegasus can only clear a few clouds. They work in teams to control the weather. And you don't have any idea how weather works anyway!"
"Oh, yeah." Rainbow nodded thoughtfully. "You're right, I don't."
"Rainbow Dash, I swear on my magic--"
"Hey! Hey, come on, you think I'd try to upheave the natural order on my own just because I'm annoyed by a little rain?" The blue girl laughed. "Yeah, that ain't happening, Sunset, I promise."
"Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye."
Sunset nodded, still keeping a wary eye on the girl. "Alright..."
"So what's up with you?" Rainbow asked. "Anything new?"
"...you know, I did see this new clothes store open..."
And Rainbow Dash smiled, nodded, talked casually, and in the back of her mind something wound too tightly began to scheme.
Fluttershy glanced up from her book, smiling warmly at the figure striding into the animal shelter. "Rainbow Dash! It's good to see you looking so chipper! After everything that happened this month, I was worried."
"Yeah, it's been kind of a downer," Rainbow admitted. "But you know, I've been thinking, maybe I should consider expanding my horizons a bit."
"I mean, I get wings whenever I pony up," she continued. "And you know, that's great, but I feel I haven't been using it to my full potential, you know? Really getting up high."
"O-oh." Fluttershy glanced away. "I suppose that makes sense..."
"Oh, I'm not stupid, Shy. I've been in my fair share of accidents, I'm not going to just jump off a skyscraper on a whim. Heck, I should probably have somebody spot me. For the first few goes, I mean. Somebody who could catch me if I fell."
"Oh, yes, certainly. I hope you can find somebody to work with you on this."
Dash smiled, a friendly smile. "Yeah... I mean maybe I'll never be good as the me on the other side of the mirror. She was born with wings, you know? Flying is her thing. The stories Sunset has told me about pegasi, though... you know she can get up high enough to control the weather?"
"That's nice for her," Fluttershy murmured.
"It's a day job, apparently. All pegasi can do it. Still, wow, controlling the weather." Dash turned away, casually leaning on the desk. "That's the stuff of legend."
"I mean, yeah, the obvious uses would be to make it sunny or summon a storm for dramatic effect, but... man." Dash, carefully, kept her eyes on the magazine rack. "With all this climate change stuff going on, it could be a real game changer. Like, making it rain where the rainforest had gotten too dry... or maybe clearing out clouds that are flooding rare habitats. Being able to stop forest fires with a thunderstorm... a lot of people would be in a better place if we could do that."
"...a lot of animals too," Fluttershy mused.
"Huh?" said Rainbow Dash, as though she hadn't thought about that. "Oh, yes, you're right. A lot of poor displaced critters, finally being able to head home when things got set right..."
"But it's still a very dangerous idea," Fluttershy said firmly. "Especially if you don't know what you're getting into. What if the wrong person gets their hands on weather control, Rainbow? What if the damage gets even worse."
"Yeah, you're right," Rainbow admitted sadly. "If somebody were to try this all on their own, without anybody to convince her when to stop, well... they could make a mess of things really quickly. Even if they did, say, check out the biggest book on weather mechanics and phenomena at the local library."
Silence sidled into the room, looked at the slowly changing expression on Fluttershy's face, and decided they didn't want to stick around for the inevitable explosion.
"...This isn't theoretical, is it."
Rainbow shrugged. "Well, I can't do anything if I can't get up to the clouds--"
"Rainbow, this is incredibly dangerous. What if you get hit by lightning? Or catch hypothermia in midair? What if you go too high to breathe?! I know we have magic now, but we're still human beings! We can't just--"
"Hey, hey! I'm not stupid. I know the risks." Rainbow paused. "Most of them. And I don't want to do this alone anyway."
Fluttershy glanced away. "I... I don't know, Rainbow."
"Shy." Rainbow turned around, putting her hands on the desk. "Think of the animals, Shy. All those poor little critters, unable to get home because of human development. Don't you think, maybe, they deserve a chance? Some sort of compensation for what's been done?"
"I..." Fluttershy bit her lip.
"And it's not like we're jumping straight to changing the world. I want to know that we can do it, before we make any big plans." Rainbow held out her hand. "Come on. We're already able to fly... what's a little weather magic on top of that?"
It had taken two months since then.
Two months of careful, meticulous, mind-numbing research, kept out of Sunset's notice by crafty and quick diversions. In a way, it was just as exciting as sports; Sunset could come out of nowhere, and with her geode she could easily find out about Rainbow's scheme. Rainbow Dash, however, was a performer--and as much fun as she had showing off, one of the single most important and rarely spoken lessons she had learned was that showing off had to be timed properly.
Between the study sessions she and Fluttershy ponied up, figuring out the limitations of their flight, the mechanics of higher air traversal, and exactly how far one could fall safely with wings. Fluttershy, of course, never took part in the tests as a subject, but she was always on hand for note-keeping and patching up Rainbow's various injuries. Rainbow herself took a broken leg with grace; it wasn't the first time she'd had such an injury, and she knew her own body well enough to know it would heal relatively quickly. Her eyes turned to the sky with a grin, even as her cast itched.
They'd bought equipment. Well, her parents had bought the equipment. As annoyingly supportive as they were, being willing to dish out money for their daughter had advantages. And they'd set up a space, just by the beach, where Rainbow could test her skills on low-hanging clouds. There were only a few, right now, but the forecast said they'd be there all day.
"Can we go over this one more time, please?"
Rainbow Dash slipped into her pressure suit. "I go up to a cloud. I touch the cloud and see what happens. I'm down in an hour or less."
"And what about the safety regulations?" Fluttershy reminded her.
"I keep the helmet on at all times," Rainbow replied, strapping a parachute pack to her chest. "There's an automatic activation thingy that will trigger the parachute if I stop breathing for more than a minute, and I have a manual trigger on hand at all times." She tied an oxygen tank to her back, just between her wings."
"I request a status report every five minutes and, in addition, you tell me what you're doing in real time--"
"Alright, alright, yes!" Dash put on the helmet, tying the seal around her neck. "Radio check, one two, one two."
Fluttershy took out her radio. "Confirmed, radio is working. Oh! Don't fly up too fast, we don't want you getting a case of the bends--"
"Yeah, yeah, I got it. Ready for launch."
Fluttershy bit her lip. "...be careful, okay?"
"Hey, relax Shy." Rainbow flashed her a cocky smirk, which would have been more effective if it wasn't hidden by her helmet. "I got this."
She shot into the air, wings beating like a hummingbird as she ascended. The altimeter on her wrist slowly began ticking up, a decameter going by every five seconds. She gave it a frown. "Hey, Shy?"
"I'm going two meters a second. How long will it take me to get up to the cloud layer?"
"Um..." There was some rustling on the other end of the radio. "...divide by sixty... sixteen to seventeen minutes?"
"Should I go faster?"
"No. Think of it like a marathon, not a sprint. Slow regular flaps, not one quick jaunt. If your wings give out up there, you'll have to use the parachute."
Rainbow sighed. "Understood."
Despite her irritation, she was smiling. Sure, she was going to be tired at the end of this--and it might not even work. But even a failure would be a triumph. She had bowed to the weather before, but now... now she was putting everything on the line to wrangle it into submission. Her magical feathers twitched in the increasing wind, and her blood was pounding.
"Is it that time already?" Rainbow glanced at her altimeter. "Oh hey! I'm halfway there!"
"Maybe you just sped up subconsciously. Try to keep your speed at a maximum of five meters a second, okay? Any faster and you could suffer side effects."
Rainbow Dash smirked into the sunlight. "You got it, Shy."
Today would be a day for the history books, no matter what.