Author: Katlina Sommerberg

“Not a golden goose, but almost as good as one,” Mabel said. “And you’ve got twenty.” She had her doubts, but her skepticism melted after seeing my living prototypes.

The spring rain drizzled down, and all my hens came out to frolic in the wet grass. Two wandered close, Pam and Jam, but stopped at the electromagnetic barrier. Most modified chickens knew better than to cross ultraviolet fences, and mine were no exception.

“In this age, drugs are better than gold. This is a continuation of the OpenPenicillinProject.” I’d worked in Counter Culture Labs, where the OpenPenicillinProject wrecked the Big Pharma monopoly on antibiotics in the early 2020’s. I aimed to pick up where they left off, fifty years later, in spite of the government’s crackdown.

“Your technical documentation is good, but I marked spots in your tutorial. If you want the general population involved, you can’t teach at the university level.”

“What about the chemicals I already reverse engineered? Should any be scrapped?”

“The cannabinoids are an odd choice. But why did you remove penicillin?”

We walked to my cottage, past the chicken coops housing failed prototypes. The chickens became my life after retirement; only Mabel knew about their real purpose. I‌ intended to stay anonymous.

“The dosage is tricky. The eggs aren’t consistent in dosage, so I left it off. Who knew it’d be the trickiest one?” I‌ laughed, running my hand through my greying hair.

I unlocked the front door and walked in after Mabel. With a forlorn look at my lab space, which hadn’t been used since I finished the lab work last week. Mabel pulled out her devices from her backpack. I always admired her work ethic, ever since we met in Berkley’s master’s program.

Without looking up, she asked, “Larissa, any documentation you need me to focus on?”

“Make sure the male birth control option is up to par; I know I neglected that section.”

She gave me a thumbs up.

I folded myself into a pretzel at my desk. I had yet to review the videos I commissioned, meant to attract viral attention. Looking at them would make the looming launch real, and I wasn’t ready for the world to blow up over my research. Worse, I wasn’t ready for my work to receive zero attention, with only comments written by bots.

After Mabel sent me a reminder, I finally played one video. Then another, and another, until I watched them all.

I logged into the Golden Chicken social media accounts, instantly floored by the amount of notifications across each one. However, only other biohackers followed me now. As my favorite commissioned video loaded, I finished editing the announcement. Once everything looked presentable enough, I threw it into the internet and immediately logged out of the accounts. I couldn’t bear to watch the views count.

Mabel glanced over while I paced around the room, running over possible consequences of my research. I intended for my chickens to herald the way for affordable drugs, many of which were discovered over thirty years ago, yet only increased in price as time went on. But the backlash against the research could lead to another crackdown, like the OpenPenicillinProject.

My success story could spell disaster for the biohacking community as a whole, but how could any argument stand against the unethical practice of doing nothing while people died from treatable conditions?

“Larissa. Larissa!” Mabel called, snapping her fingers in front of my face, interrupting my spiraling fears. “You’re brooding again.”

I sighed, reaching for my coat. “I know. I’m going out to pet my chickens.”