Standby is the final chapter in Bryn Oh's Rabbicorn trilogy. Part 1, The Daughter of Gears, in which a mother takes an unusual step to savings her dying daughter. In Miss Oh's words:
There once was a young girl who was very sick. She grew progressively worse as her mother helplessly watched. The idea of losing her daughter drove her to a drastic experiment. As her daughter lay dying she transferred her soul into a vessel to create a now living machine. A machine with the scared mind of a young child. What she had done could not remain a secret, and there were many who felt the Daughter was an abomination. A slight against nature. Fearing the worst, the mother creates a land of traps and obstacles to protect them, and brings her Daughter of Gears to the top of a tower. A mob builds and in their perceived righteousness they come to the tower to take the Daughter.
They eventually reach the top to find the mother waiting. She will never let them take her Daughter and fights them with a great fury. She defeats them all, but is wounded mortally in doing so. As she lay dying she looks to her Daughter and realizes that she will now live alone in this tower. A child robot who doesn't age, therefore living eternally in loneliness. An outcast who can not fit in. After her mother dies the Daughter goes into Standby mode much like a computer does. In her Standby she relives all the memories of her mother and dreams new ones. One hundred years go by as she stands rooted to the top of the tower. Vines grow around her feet while the tower slowly deteriorates, but she hides within her standby and dreams.
Part 2, The Rabbicorn, involves a scientist who creates a robotic companion for himself, part rabbit, part unicorn. Again, in Miss Oh's words:
A scientist works within the government creating machines of war. Each day he tried to find new weapons and programs each for hunting and killing. When alone at home he begins to build a robot companion for himself. One which can love and think, something unique and unnecessary in the realm of war. He creates the Rabbicorn. Part Rabbit part unicorn. Something both living and extinct or perhaps a myth.
Once the Rabbicorn was completed and he saw what was created, he realized that if the Government ever discovered her she would be removed to be studied or taken apart. They would see her as property with an interesting ability to love. They would dispassionately study her like they would a bug under a microscope. So the Scientist takes a great gamble and gives her to a man who in passing mentions it is his sons birthday. The man gladly accepts and doesn't realize what the Rabbbicorn is, he sees her as a big toy robot. This is the first separation for the Rabbicorn, and her heart, which is the music box on her back, slows and ceases to turn.
She is brought to the mans home and placed in a wrapped giftbox. In the morning the boy finds her and the Rabbicorn imprints on the boy. They become great friends and the gentle Rabbicorn will do anything for him except fight, she understands the concept yet it is not in her programming.
For 90 years they were together, with the Rabbicorn never changing while the boy aged to an old man. One day Scientists arrive at their door hearing rumours of the fabled Rabbicorn. When they see her enter the room one tags her with a GPS gun. The old boy pushes them aside and tells his Rabbicorn to flee and never come back. The Rabbicorn does and easily escapes all the guards into a world she knows nothing about, and again her heart stops its turning as she leaves the only life she knew.
After a few days she comes to a large abandoned tower, and at the top she finds the Daughter of Gears shutdown and in standby for a hundred years. The Rabbicorn connects to the Daughter of Gears with a cable and joins her in the white of her dreams. Again her heart begins to turn as she finds a companion who doesn't age and who also has the capacity to love. An outcast like her who doesn't fit inside this world they are forced to live in.
Part 3 opened Nov. 1 in IBM Exhibit A. The Rabbicorn and the Daughter of Gears encounter the outside world after many years.
The poems that tell the story are not terribly good (to my ignorant eyes, at least), but the story is a moving one, and Miss Oh has a unique visual style.