• Published 17th Feb 2016
  • 26,141 Views, 474 Comments

Tantabus, Mk. II - Rambling Writer



An attempt by Luna to update the Tantabus to spread good dreams has a few unexpected results. Self-aware ones.

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Solution Attained

“Did you really need to include that?” Twilight yelled at the Tantabus.

“It’s,” babbled the Tantabus, “it’s a perfectly normal th-”

“It is, but that doesn’t mean I want to see it from out of nowhere! Sweet Celestia, if I saw any more, I’d have to take bleach to my eyes and scrub out my retinas! Ten whole gallons of it!” Twilight shuddered. “Seriously, that’s private. The least you could’ve done is warn us.”

“I don’t have complete control over dreams,” said the Tantabus quickly. It shuffled backward a foot. “I can affect them in certain ways, push them in certain directions, stick objects here or there, but, but it’s not like I’ve got a control panel to affect every single aspect of one, especially with the dreamer herself. I didn’t know that would happen.”

“You are a month old,” mused Luna, “and yet you react to that like… this.” She squinted at it. “I can only imagine where your intelligence came from in the first place.”

The Tantabus shrugged. “Dunno. I just know that once upon a time, I… was. And before then, I wasn’t. Don’t ask me when that time was, I couldn’t tell you. Maybe it was when I finally realized you were my mom.”

“When you were working with it,” Twilight asked Luna, “exactly what kinds of magic did you do on it? Maybe you, I don’t know, put some of yourself into it?”

“If I did, it was unintentional. But magic is a strange thing. It is possible that my magic carried some… imprint of intelligence that the Tantabus filled. It obviously knows things that I never taught it directly.”

Memo to self, Twilight thought. Does magic carry signatures of some kind beyond the obvious?

“Or perhaps it is some combination of what went in,” muttered Luna. She began pacing. “I gave you the capability to see someone’s pleasures and pains, to sort through them, to identify what would work best, and that is merely the start… I suppose that could cause something to happen to give you a mind, theoretically. And I worked with you for your whole development, while I simply cut the previous Tantabus loose and gave it free rein within the bounds of its instructions. If you were even remotely impressionable, that would likely influence you.”

“Are you trying to psychoanalyze me?” asked the Tantabus. It shuffled its hooves. “Please don’t psychoanalyze me.”

“This is important,” said Twilight. “We don’t want to have any more surprises. You’re good so far, but is that something in your creation that’ll always come out, or did we get lucky?”

“Oh.” The Tantabus looked down at its hooves. “Okay, I can see that.” It paused for a moment, then looked back up. “Are you sure this isn’t just some wild goose chase? That you won’t just be running around in circles trying to figure out what makes me me?”

“This question has not been properly solved for ponies, to be honest,” said Luna. “There are many, many arguments on both sides of nature vs nurture. And I am not even certain which side you would fit on.” She rustled her wings in thought. “I cannot remember every precise step I did to create you, so I cannot replicate the process or record it. The broad strokes, certainly, but not exactly, and even the smallest differences can yield immense results.”

“So it is a wild goose chase,” said the Tantabus flatly.

“Perhaps. Unless I rip open your head to see what kind of magic is stewing in there.”

The Tantabus gulped and backed up. “Please don’t.” it squeaked.

“I was not planning on it,” said Luna. “But you could be right. We may be able to trace the general paths, based on how magic works, but without any sort of specifics, this is ultimately an exercise in futility.” She cleared her throat. “Then I suppose we should just get to me telling you what I thought of your latest dream.”

“Yeah, we should. So, what’d you think?” The Tantabus wasn’t quite bouncing, but it kept standing up on tiphooves and then dropping back down. “I put a lot of work into it.”

“Well, it was good, in its own way,” said Luna slowly, “as were the others, but on a larger scale, maybe you could do with a little more variety.”

The Tantabus stopped not-quite-bouncing. “Variety?” it asked. “But I’ve got plenty of variety. You did see the dreams I made, right?”

“Not in content, in tone. It is small,” said Luna, “but it’s just… in making dreams… you tend to have an awful lot of…” She paused, searching for the right word. “…camp.”

“C-camp?” sputtered the Tantabus. “Camp? I do not do camp!”

“You kind of do,” said Twilight, rubbing her neck. “I mean, there’s nothing wrong with it, I can see the appeal, but… yeah, you do camp.”

“After all,” said Luna, “you gave Sombra a fancy mustache and a dragon as stereotypical a Trottingham accent as you could muster.”

“What about the last dream? Spy thrillers aren’t camp.”

“Not inherently so. A ballistic missile is one thing. But for the villain to strap a victim to the outside of said ballistic missile simply because of spite…”

“Fine. Be that way.”

“So tone it down. Learn to be slower, more mellow. Not everything needs to be loud and attention-grabbing. But aside from your…” Luna picked her next word carefully. “…flamboyance… you do appeared to have a knack for knowing what ponies want in their dreams.”

“Well, duh. What kind of a dream weaver would I be if I didn’t?”

“And I have not seen anything to imply any malevolence. You just want to make ponies happy.” Luna sighed. “I suppose I had nothing to worry about in letting you go.”

The Tantabus’s ears shot up and its eyes grew big. “So this mean you’re going to let me off the leash? Let me spread good dreams?” it asked quietly. “I can stay in your dream if you want, but I reeeaaally want to get out. I want to make more mustachioed villains and posh dragons.”

“Well, it is…” muttered Luna. “You know I made you, right?”

“Yeah. We’ve been over this a lot in the past hour or whatever.”

“So that feeling you get of wanting to help others…” Luna stared at the ground and shifted her weight. “It, it is not genuinely yours,” she said quietly. “It is only in there because I put it there. I do not think you truly have a choice in the matter.”

The Tantabus blinked and cocked its head. “So?”

Luna looked up at the Tantabus, brow slightly furrowed. “So if I let you out, spreading good dreams will be all you want to do, and not through any choice of your own. You will only want to do it because I force you to do so. And I- I want you to be free, not released to do some job that I make you do, whether through magical compulsion or otherwise. I do not want to give you freedom only to have you brainwashed.”

“…I’m… I’m not sure why this is an issue,” said the Tantabus after some hesitation. “This is what I was made to do. Literally made. I don’t see why I shouldn’t be fine with it, especially because I like it. You’re fine with moving the moon for all time, and the main reason you’re drawn to it in the first place is because you’ve got a picture of the moon on your butt!”

“It is called a cutie mark,” huffed Luna, “and it signifies a pony’s special talent. Mine happens to be caring for the moon. It tells you what one’s talent is, not the other way around.”

“Mom, that doesn’t make it not a picture of the moon on your butt.” The Tantabus turned the side of its rump towards Luna. “Look at my butt. It’s blank. Is that what you’re worrying about? That I won’t like taking care of dreams because I don’t have a picture of a dream on my butt? I don’t need any pictures on my butt to tell me what I’m good at.”

Luna pawed slightly at the ground and flicked her tail. “And that is all well and good,” she said, “but that is not the only thing at issue here. The previous Tantabus attempted to escape into the real world. Do you want to do so?”

“No!” laughed the Tantabus. “Don’t you remember what you told me just a few weeks ago? It’s tight and restrictive out there. It’s too…” It turned to Twilight. “I need a word that says that something stays the same a lot.”

“Static,” said Twilight.

“Yes! Perfect. The outside’s too static.”

“And how do you know that?” asked Luna. Her voice was growing forceful. “Have you ever witnessed the real world for yourself? Or do you just believe what I’m making you believe?”

The Tantabus rolled its eyes. “Mom, you taught that to me so I wouldn’t want to escape. I don’t see why you would lie, so I believe you. And I don’t like the sound of the real world, so I don’t want to get out there. Simple as that. And why would I want to? It’s much more fun in here, and I can’t hurt anypony.”

“It is not that. It’s… I never taught you a single thing, I simply pushed the ideas directly into your head. Had you been a normal pony, I would have been horrified with myself.”

“Yes, but I wasn’t a normal pony. Well, okay, I’m not really a pony now, but you get the idea.”

“But if I ma-”

Twilight cleared her throat. “Luna,” she said, “you need to stop fretting about this one thing. You made it, yeah, but it’s not a thing anymore. It’s a person. But at the same time, it’s not a normal pony, so we can’t judge it only by our standards. You say you forced the idea of staying in dreams into its mind, but it says you taught it to it. Is there really a difference to it?”

The Tantabus wiggled a hoof at Twilight. “What she said. You formed me out of nothing and decided to take the quick route for giving me morals. But now I’m here, and I can think for myself, and I don’t want to hurt anypony, so I don’t see what the big deal is.”

“But the ideas I gave to you,” said Luna, her voice tensing, “they are not yours. You should have your own reason to want to stay in here, not something I artificially planted in your mind!”

The Tantabus groaned and facehoofed. “I really don’t think you’re getting this, Mom.” It turned on Twilight. “You’ve got a house, right?”

“Castle, but yeah.”

“And if you wanted to, you could demolish it and build a new one, right?”

“Yeah.” Twilight began to see where the Tantabus was going.

“So why don’t you?”

“Because I don’t want to.”

“And why don’t you want to?”

“Just because.”

The Tantabus turned to Luna. “See, Mom? Sometimes ponies don’t want to do things just because. You don’t always need a reason to do things and you don’t always need a reason to not do things. You may think your magic is compelling me to stay in here, but the way I see it, I want to stay in here just because I want to stay in here, and not because of something else.”

“So you accept the methods by which you learned,” said Luna. She said it slowly, as if it was more to reassure herself than to make sure the Tantabus got it.

The Tantabus stared at her for a moment. “Yeeeessss! What do you think I’ve been saying this whole time?”

For several moments, Luna was silent, simply staring at the Tantabus. Then she sighed. “If that is truly how you feel…” Her horn sparked and the star fields on the Tantabus shifted slightly. “You can go now. You’re free.”

The Tantabus’s jaw dropped slightly, and it looked around at the doors, twitching a little. Then it yanked its jaw back up and grinned. “You mean it? I can go through any door? Into any dream?”

“Yes. You no longer need my permission to travel. You can go where you wish.”

“Th-thank you,” said the Tantabus. It stepped forward and hugged Luna. “You’ll see, Mom. I’ll make you proud. I’ll make the best dreams anypony’s ever seen.”

Luna hugged back. “If you don’t, you’re grounded.”

The Tantabus ended the hug and pouted. “Mooooooom…”

“If you insist on calling me that,” said Luna, smiling, “I shall act like it.”

“Well, there’s a downside to everything, I guess.” The Tantabus rolled its eyes, but it was smiling as well. It turned to Twilight. “And thanks for helping me with this.”

“I don’t feel like I actually did anything,” said Twilight. She could feel her face getting warm at the thought. Luna had come to her for help, and all she’d done was hang out and watch the Tantabus do its thing.

“You were a second opinion,” the Tantabus responded. “Well, a third one, actually. The tiebreaker. An unbiased look at this.”

Okay, thought Twilight, that doesn’t sound so bad. She still kind of disagreed with it, but she didn’t want to drag this out.

“Either of you, just call if you need me. Now, if the two of you don’t mind, I’ve got some dreams to enhance.” The Tantabus saluted, then flashed through a door and was gone, leaving Twilight and Luna standing alone.

Twilight glanced at Luna. She was staring at the spot where the Tantabus had been, taking long, deep breaths and blinking a lot. Every now and then, she would rustle her wings or flick her tail. “Well?” Twilight asked. “How do you feel?”

“I am not sure,” said Luna quietly. “It is like I have… lost something. I know I haven’t, it is still in here, but… I am letting go of something I’ve cared for for the past month. I watched it grow, Twilight. I watched it grow and learn, and I was never aware of it.” She paused. “I’ve never had children, and I do not think I ever will. Then along comes this, and before I realize what’s happening, it grows up and is gone. And…” She sighed. “I do not know, Twilight. I feel terrible for having treated it like a thing, but I never knew it was anything more.”

“If you feel like that, then you probably made the right decision. Can you imagine keeping it locked up?”

Luna pondered that for a moment. “True,” she said eventually. “It may have enjoyed my dreams for now, but seeing it then as I do now, I do not want to ponder what it may have felt years down the line. Still, I can only hope it keeps its word.”

“You taught it to, right? It will.”

“We shall see.”

“Plus, if it doesn’t, you’ll ground it.”

Luna grinned slightly. “True. Quite true.”


The next night, Twilight dreamed.

She was in a city. Not any particular one, just a city. In front of her stood a library, or the remains of one, to be more precise. It wasn’t a big loss; it had been demolished due to being old and unstable, and all the books had been moved out in preparation for the move to the new building.

Next to her, the librarian was leafing through papers, mumbling as she tried to find something. Then she found it and groaned. “Oh, come on. You gotta be kidding me. No. Not that.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Oh, it’s just… somepony dropped our book catalogue in the mud.” The librarian held up a thick, dark purple book and, sure enough, mud was dripping from it. “Most of it’s fine, but the last part was completely ruined.”

Twilight gasped. “I’m so sorry.”

“Yeah,” said the librarian sadly. “All the books in there will need to be reorganized. But no one will want to look at them, because those’re the history books on magic.”

Twilight’s ears perked up and she whirled to face the librarian, grinning widely. “You need someone to organize books on magic?” she asked.

The librarian nodded. “Yes, and lots of them, from Neighton to Maristotle to Rutherfoal to Copernicanter to Gallopleo to a bunch of others I’m forgetting. Every single one will need to be catalogued and sorted.”

It might’ve just been Twilight, but she thought she heard a heavenly choir singing.

“And whoever does it,” continued the librarian, “will need to read all of them cover to cover, to be properly sure of their contents. But who’s got the time or patience to read, analyze, and organize dozens of books on the development of magical theory across history from all the masters of old?”

Yes, there was definitely a heavenly choir singing.

Twilight was about to volunteer. But before she could, a soft wind blew. In it, she could hear the Tantabus’s voice.

Thank you. For everything.

Comments ( 165 )

This was pure brilliance.

I applaud you, author.

~Skeeter The Lurker

Of coure we end with our favorite purple pony princess. I kinda wish that there was more, explore the dreams of ponies. Possibly Celestia. Possible sequel?:fluttershysad:

Adorable, and good ideas on the concept of the Tantabus being 'forced' to like what it likes.

And the best possible dream Twilight could have. :twilightsmile:

i like this, it was nice

That was sweet.

Sequel?

6959442

...and I would have gotten away with it too if it weren't for you meddling kids!

That was a nice short story. :pinkiehappy:
Favorite!

I love this ending. It's a good ending. :twilightsmile:

that was nice and fun.

Perfect plot idea for a sequel.

Tantabus returns to Luna to introduce her to something born of dreams.

The new little creature looks up at Luna.

"Grandma?"


After all, then not only do you have Luna's maternal instincts on overdrive, that's in combat with "a magical creation that came to life created another living magical creation", and all of those issues.


Alternative sequel idea.

Tantabus goes into Celestia's dreams and calls her Auntie, just before Luna goes in to see to Tia's dreams.

:trollestia: Luna...care to explain?

Hipotheretical sequel idea: Nightmare Moon runs away from Her prison cell in the dream realm and disconnects Luna from the sleeping domain. It's now for Tantabus to retake the dreamscape and stop Her evil sister.

Librarian: "Who wants to organize every magic book in the world?"
Twilight: "Me me me me!!!"

But what about us weirdos that ENJOY nightmares?

the premise here reminds me a little bit of TMNT (2003) episode 5: Nano. Well, a little. :twilightsheepish:

This was a really fun story! I love how the Tantabus acts something like a very sarcastic teenager, and one with a love for hammy plot lines to boot. (It'd have a field day with Spike...)

Another interesting thing was Luna's concern over controlling the Tantabus. I saw her reasoning stemming from two perspectives. One, she tried to subjugate every pony in Equestria as Nightmare Moon. It makes sense she'd not want to do that again. And two, after the Elements of Harmony kinda rewrote her personality (or, if you read the comics, when Nightmare Moon took over her mind a thousand years ago), she'd know how it would feel to have your mind warped or changed against your will. I doubt she'd enjoy forcing that on anybody.

*Shrug* Random fridge horror is random. Over all, this was a really good and funny story! :twilightsmile:

Twilight is easy to please.

Shouldn't they introduce Tantabvus to Celestia? They're bound to meet sooner or later, and a random meeting is a rude way to tell somepony they're an aunt now. :pinkiehappy:

Another possible sequel idea. Luna is sitting in a nightmare getting ready to step in and talk to a pony about what is troubling them (like she did with the CMC) when the Tantubus enters the dream. She stops the Tantabus from interfering and we have it struggle with understanding why Luna is stopping it.

Awww, this is sweet. Born of punishment and turned into a tool for good. Given life and a mind of its own. And its ok with that. It knows it is a creation and is ok with it!

Great dream sequences, great job.

A fun little read. Hope to see Tantabus v2.0 again in the future...

...maybe when she meets her aunt? :trollestia:

Um... Wow?
This story was very well done! It had a good premise, some good callbacks to continuity, some good humor, a good moral and a satisfying ending. AND i also had Secret Agent Bon Bon, which gives you an extra point!
11/10 on the :yay:itude meter! i'll be watching for more of YOUR work for sure.

“I can affect them in certain ways, push them in certain directions, stick objects here or that,

there

I enjoyed this. Sequel? :duck:

Twilight's dream is the best dream. Simple, and overwhelmingly positive (for her, at least).

I agree with a few others on seeing Luna, Celestia and Tantabus meet.

I really really like this.

Can't help looking at this Nice Tantabus and think Nyx from Past Sins.

“Mom, that doesn’t make it not a picture of the moon on your butt.” The Tantabus turned the side of its rump towards Luna. “Look at my butt. It’s blank. Is that what you’re worrying about? That I won’t like taking care of dreams because I don’t have a picture of a dream on my butt? I don’t need any pictures on my butt to tell me what I’m good at.”

While the Crusaders would probably agree, I can also see them trying to help Tanta get their own Cutie Mark.

The librarian nodded. “Yes, and lots of them, from Neighton to Maristotle to Rutherfoal to Copernicanter to Gallopleo to a bunch of others I’m forgetting. Every single one will need to be catalogued and sorted.”

It might’ve just been Twilight, but she thought she heard a heavenly choir singing.

“And whoever does it,” continued the librarian, “will need to read all of them cover to cover, to be properly sure of their contents. But who’s got the time or patience to read, analyze, and organize dozens of books on the development of magical theory across history from all the masters of old?”

Yes, there was definitely a heavenly choir singing.

I think Twilight just had a nerdgasm.

Tanta definitely has good taste in the dreams it gives ponies.

Well, I find myself delighted by this story. Even 2 Tantabus' love for camp. :rainbowlaugh:

hmmmmmmmmmmMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmMMMMMMMMMMMMmmmmmMMM...
HMM...
I want more.

Eh. Yaas.

The ending was so hilarious
And it was definitely fitting for twilight

6961760 Fancy seeing you here :derpytongue2:

I can see the intense eyeballs bulging out of head due to knowledge on twilight's face as the hallelujah song whosiewhatsit plays.:twilightoops:

All i have to say is this. D'aww :twilightsmile:

This was an excellent story.

This is an awesome story! I loved how you worked with Tantabus in this. This was really thought out and done well. You sir have earned yourself a fav. :twilightsmile:

“It is, but that doesn’t mean I want to see it from out of nowhere! Sweet Celestia, if I saw any more, I’d have to take bleach to my eyes and scrub out my retinas! Ten whole gallons of it!” Twilight shuddered. “Seriously, that’s private. The least you could’ve done is warn us.”

Twi, grow up.

“It’s called a cutie mark,” huffed Luna, “and it signifies a pony’s special talent. Mine happens to be caring for the moon. It tells you what one’s talent is, not the other way around.”

They spent a whole song showing it's apparently half the other way around: the cutie mark tells the pony what to do, but they'll only be good at it if they actually have a talent for it.
6961754
:eeyup:

6963354 this dream is heavily influenced after episode 100 if you haven't seen it yet watch it.

The Tantibus just became cute.:twilightsmile:

6961754

But the appeal of books is the knowledge contained within. Which will be missing in a dream. Maybe Twilight could fill in some of the blanks from her own knowledge and memory, and maybe there's some appeal to the lingering impression of the experience, but I wonder if the dream might not wind up... rather unsatisfying.

After all, she can't actually learn anything from them.

6960293 She makes them even better. Though technically, it's not a Nightmare if you enjoy it.

6964038 I get the feeling Tata can pull all the knowledge she can find in the dreamscape into the books, so they're probably full of stuff Twilight doesn't know. And Twilight likes reading, so even if it's something she already knows but a new book she'll be happy.

wlam #44 · Feb 23rd, 2016 · · 1 ·

As rude as it is to say this, I have to admit, I'm kinda surprised that this story is so highly rated and has been sticking to the top of the list for so long. It's certainly a cute and funny idea and the fast updates also helped a lot, but... well, there's really nothing particularly bad about it, but it's also not that good. It's not exactly the usual kind of feature bait people here latch onto, either. Just strikes me as a bit strange.

I LOVE THIS STORY!!! :pinkiehappy:

It's so cute!:rainbowkiss:

Sequel?:trixieshiftright::duck:

I loved this story it's was a fun idea. I and many others would love a sequel to this.

6965187 I think it was the simplicity, and execution of the idea that made it so popular.
While it's true that it wasn't dramatic or glamorous, it was still a fun, enjoyable, and easy read.

While I really enjoy the prospect of a sequel to this, I'm also wondering what would make a good plot for it.

Something that fight's Tantabus Mk. II, kicks it out of the dreamscape, and then begins to wreak havoc? Eh, needs a bit more than that to make it more engaging.

While I'm reluctant to say it, perhaps this is one of those things where it's best to leave it as it is.

Cute ending. Just the sort of dream Twilight would like to have. :twilightsmile:

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