I'm not usually surprised by Ponyville's weather. I mean, except for the occasional front coming in from the Everfree, I help build each cloud by hoof. As Ponyville Weather Captain, it's my job. And forget anything you've heard from the mayor about my napping – my job, my responsibility, and I make sure the weather happens on schedule.
That sounded a lot more like Twilight then I wanted it to. Don't tell her.
Anyway, I hadn't heard about any missing clouds, the fog bank registered no withdrawals, not a drop missing from inventory—I should double-check that with Cloud Kicker, though—and the only complaints I'd gotten were a few grumbles about the unseasonably cold, dry weather. Nothing from the local Pegasus community to indicate somepony getting bored and making some local adjustments. Basically, there was nothing that could explain why there was a patch of snow, at least several dozen buckets' worth, on the north side of the Apple family barn.
Somepony, somepony with wings, had to have put it there. That's usually not a big deal, since pegasi usually get a few buckets' worth of cloud per month from the fog bank for personal use. I nap on mine, mostly, but some ponies use 'em for watering, or showers, or writing lovey-dovey messages in the sky. Like I said, usually not a problem. Recently, though, our personal clouds were being rationed, since some egghead in Supply thinks we get most of our weather from Everfree and shouldn't need bulk cloud. By the time I figured out—okay, fine, Blossomforth told me—what was going on, we had missed last month's shipment. We've been scavenging from Everfree drift-overs and rationing, but we weren’t gonna have snow on Hearthswarming that year since all our surplus cloud went into one last rainstorm before the big freeze. Oh, and for the record? Making my report to the Boss at Cloudsdale was nowhere near as bad as telling Cheerilee's class the bad news. Anypony borrowing clouds for a private snow day was asking for a good buck to the haunches.
What's more, this flurry looked like the work of an expert—tight pattern, slightly center-mounded but pretty even depth, and oblong—whoever'd done it had kept exceptional control, and had to have worked on it for six or seven hours. Not many pegasi around here could have pulled this off. I mean, I could have, obviously, but I was pretty certain I hadn't. Cloud Kicker, Airheart, Dizzy Twister, Silver Speed, Sassaflash, and Raindrops were the only flake-rated pegasi active in the Patrol I could think of, and they all knew about our shortage. So, there was probably somepony outside the patrol, stealing my--well, Ponyville’s-- clouds.
My first job was to ask Cloud Kicker and Blossomforth if they knew anything. Hay, maybe it was a legit Weather Team thing that I didn’t know about. Since I’d taken the afternoon off--and before you and Applejack make a crack about my work ethic, we were out of clouds so it’s not like I was getting any work done--my team leaders could have needed to put some snow down.
Okay, I couldn't think of a reason for such a small patch of snow either, but around here the weather patrol is used to odd taskings.
I didn’t know where Blossomforth would be, since it was her day off, but Cloud Kicker was probably gonna be around Fluttershy’s house. Since it’s near the Everfree border we’d set up a watchtower just down the road. I was right, too - Cloud Kicker was lying on top of the tower, sipping a steaming mug of cocoa and supposedly scanning for any useful Everfree fluffballs headed our way. That was really the only thing the patrol looked for these days, since, well, you know. Not many clouds left on our side.
“Hey, Cloud Kicker! You awake?” I yelled. Her head jerked up, and she slipped over the edge of the roof. If I hadn’t seen her wings snap out I’d have totally rushed in and saved her, but she caught herself in the air and landed back on the watchtower roof. I ended up grabbing Fluttershy’s mug just before it hit the ground. Fortunately for my hooves, all the hot chocolate had spilled out before I got there. Sorry, Cloud Kicker.
“And you’re really gonna ask that after last Thursday?” she said. Oops. I didn’t think Blossomforth would have told anypony. “Jeez, Caps. Besides, it’s not like there’s anything useful floating around there anyway.”
She was right - the Everfree was enjoying clear skies, just like Ponyville. I handed her mug back with a grumble. “Something useful got floated out to Sweet Apple Acres. I figure twelve, maybe fifteen buckets.”
Cloud Kicker went pale. “Please. Please tell me Pinkie didn’t ask you to make another cider cloud.” Even I turned pale at that--ever since, well. It was the day the tabloids reported as “Discord’s Weird Weather Returns!” and the Princesses said that’s all I’m supposed to tell.
We both paused, just in case Pinkie decided to appear in person. She didn’t.
“Cloud Kicker. You never said that.” I glared. “That’s an order.” I almost never pull rank on my team, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I’d have had her Pinkie Promise if it wasn’t Pinkie herself I was worried about hearing.
She saluted. “Yes Sir, Mam, Sir! So, what comes in buckets and goes to Big Mac’s place? I’m clueless.”
Yes. Yes you are. “There’s a puddle of snow. Well-made, oval pattern, almost no drift--somepony really good.” I settled down on the watchtower roof for a moment. When I heard the lashings creaking I hopped back off - it was a temporary structure, since Applejack wouldn’t grow us a treehouse. Some problem with seasons and time and stuff. I guess Celestia growing the library in a month isn’t typical of Earth Ponies.
Cloud Kicker was busy checking the logbook. “Nope. It’s gotta be cloud from somewhere else. I inventoried all ours this morning.” She looked down. “That’s sad. I shouldn’t be able to count on my pinions how many barrels we have left.”
“Yeah. I was hoping there was a legit reason for it. Thanks anyway.” I turned and headed for the Ponyville library tree.
“You owe me for that hot cocoa!” Oh. She did notice after all.
Witty comeback time. “Oh yeah? If it weren’t for my awesome flying, you’d owe Fluttershy for the mug!”
“Well, If you hadn’t scared me o-” I flew off before she could finish. After all, if I didn’t hear it it wasn’t a comeback, right? I think it works the same way as being the loudest at a debate. I mean, I yell over Twilight all the time and then she gives up, and she knows a whole lot about debate. So she’s gotta know she can’t keep up with these lungs. She even said I should debate Princess Luna someday.
Speaking of Luna, her sister was nice enough to make the library’s windows big enough to fit through. Today, though, I remembered that Spike keeps asking me to please use the doors because he was tired of putting everything back after my landings. I don’t see why they bother, since I always aim for the boring part--I refuse to call it the no-friction section, ‘cause you need friction to stop--where only Twilight goes, and she can’t find anything there anyway. But Spike did ask nicely, and Twilight does usually get grumpy when I do that. At the last second I pulled up and crashed against the balcony door instead.
Oh. It opens outwards. Oops.
By the time I’d picked myself up, Twilight had opened the stupid door from the inside. I wobbled in and mumbled, “Hey, Twilight.” It wasn’t like I wasn’t used to crashing into the library - that happened about every other week or so. It’s just, I usually landed on the inside.
Twilight’s horn sparked, and the radiator in the corner started bubbling. “Hi!” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “How’s the, um, winter weather been coming?”
I’d told Twilight what was happening, of course. She’d been talking about cloud seeding and stuff last summer, so I figured maybe she'd want to try a snowflake spell or something. She hadn’t thought of anything safer than what we’d tried last summer, which I was not ever doing again, but it was worth asking. “That’s the question. I’ve got some rogue snow out by Sweet Apple Acres, and nopony knows where it came from.” I flapped into a low hover. “I checked with Cloud Kicker--it’s not official Weather Patrol, and everypony around here with snow skills knows how short we are on cloud. I was kinda hoping you’d know.”
Twilight shrugged. “I think we can rule out any unicorn magic...” I nodded, wincing. “Wendigos could make it snow, but they generally blanket a huge area – besides, there isn't much political unrest or disharmony for them to feed on.” Her horn glowed as she pulled a dusty book off a shelf across the room and held it in front of her. She began flipping through the pages, mumbling to herself. I've seen what she's like when she researches, so I knew better than to stay out in the open where a flying book could whack me. I curled up by the radiator, where it was safe and warm.
The motto of the Weather Service: Stay not snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night; thou art balance, thou bringest life to Equestria.