“It is my pleasure to announce that the winner of the 2030 Greatest Invention of the Last Decade is....” he paused for maximum effect, before continuing, “...Roscoe Hadstock – for P2E.”
Lisa patted me on the back and I kissed her before standing up to thunderous applause – my receiving this award was clearly a popular choice – and I walked down the aisle with a huge smile on my face and up onto the stage to shake hands with the host and he handed over the giant cheque made out to my company, P2E, for $1 million. I looked at it, kissed it as if it was the Championship trophy and held it over my head in celebration – just as I had seen my football heroes do – causing the crescendo to increase in volume.
“So, what is the first thing you'll do to celebrate your success in winning this award?” The host held the microphone near my mouth as he shouted over the noise, and I waited for the applause to subside a little.
“Could you direct the spotlight onto Lisa, please?” I had pre-arranged this with the organisers, in the event that I won the award, but kept it a secret from my girlfriend.
I could see the giant screens around the hall switch their focus from me to Lisa and I could see her face, framed by her shiny long hair and fringe, looking beautiful, shiny, happy, but also confused – although I suspect she knew what was going to happen.
I went down on one knee on the stage. “Lisa, will you marry me?”
Ten years earlier in the boy's toilets at high school.
“Come on, Geoff, you're not really trying. It's only 3.1 volts.” Barry was trying to encourage him, but it was not working. I could see he was struggling to force out his pee, and having difficulty hitting the target – the centre of the collector vessel attached to my gadget. The large voltmeter was almost hanging off the printed circuit board as I carefully held the hand-made test unit together. I made a note of his best reading.
“Hurry up, Geoff, I'm bursting!” Barry was kneading his groin and shuffling from side to side, obviously desperate to take his turn.
“Okay, no more.” Geoff sounded sad and stepped aside. Barry quickly unzipped his trousers and aimed a strong jet at the centre of my collector.
“Wonderful, Barry!” I was delighted by the quantity. “7.8, 7.9...8... very good.”
He sighed at the relief and smiled at me. “It's normally around 8 volts, isn't it?”
“Yes, Lisa has been helping me with the girls and the average result from all you guys over the last couple of weeks has been around 8 volts. The record, though, was Shanice with 14.2 volts!”
Barry finished and zipped himself up. He managed 8.1 volts and I made a note.
Geoff wondered out loud, “So what's the point of all this?”
Barry was the tallest and cleverest of the three of us. He seemed to know everything. “Roscoe wants to take Lisa on a date and she refused unless he achieved something. She said she couldn't go out with a toilet cleaner.”
“I'm a sewage engineer!” I protested.
“Yes, toilet cleaner, as I said. She challenged you to win the school science fair at the end of term and then she would go out with you, didn't she?”
I nodded sadly. Lisa was the cleverest and most beautiful girl in class. She was only a few hours younger than me and our mothers had met in the maternity ward, when we were being born, and stayed in touch. They discovered that we lived in the same block and we grew up together, playing together and being best of friends, as we had no siblings, being both “only children”. It seemed natural to me that we would end up together – but not to Lisa, she was aiming for a boyfriend higher than me. My father worked hard, but was only a foreman in a manufacturing company, my mother was a housewife. Lisa's parents were wealthy and owned the manufacturing company where my dad worked. They were friendly, but stand-offish and claerly wouldn't approve of Lisa and I having anything more than a friendship, but I wanted more than that. Eventually, I had plucked up courage to ask her out, during the brief time she was single, and she had smiled and challenged me to make something more of my life than my parents – and she suggested winning the science fair at the end of term. She usually won it and my science marks were only a little above average, so there didn't seem much chance, but I accepted the challenge.
I had a part-time job as a cleaner and it was while I was cleaning the toilets that I had the idea of collecting pee and doing something useful with it. After significant amounts of research on-line, I had developed something to make electricity from the pee, made a prototype and, with Lisa's help for collecting and testing the girls' pee, we were making progress – to charge my phone from the electricity generated from the pee.
“You should spend more time in class, rather than wasting all your time in toilets collecting pee!” Barry had also been my friend for many years, and was trying to encourage me to follow the conventional route, as he was planning.
“You'll never pass your exams and get into university if you waste your time with these toys!” He waved his hand at my fragile prototype, which I was cradling carefully as if it was my baby.
“If I'm successful, I won't have to go to university – besides, what's the point of learning about how rivers form, or the history of 19th century medicine? How is that going to be of use in the real world?” I was cynical about the stuff we were learning at school.
“Your toys are no more useful! You need to learn this stuff to get a good grade, to get into the best university. That's what I'm aiming for.”
“Then what? I want to make useful products to change the world. That means thinking unconventionally and creatively. School teaches everyone the same thing in the same way and expect the same answer from everyone – what chance is there to be creative? None!” We had had this argument many times, but Barry was convinced that the majority of people agreed with him and would follow the same path.
“The best university leads to the best jobs. Then, you might have a chance of dating Lisa.” Ouch, that hurt! He knew that was what I wanted more than anything, but my chances seemed remote at the moment. She was dating the best athlete in the school and they seemed to be very much in love. My chances of winning the science prize and then dating Lisa seemed even more remote than ever.
The bell went, and we left the toilets. Outside the next class I joined the queue and could see Lisa and Grant were together, as usual, with their arms wrapped around each other and kissing and giggling. They stopped as I approached.
“How's the pee collection?” Lisa smiled at me, but took on a serious look, showing genuine concern for our joint experiments.
“Barry and Geoff helped – but only 8.1 volts tops – Shanice is still the record-holder.” I smiled at her interest.
“So what's next? Where do we go from here?”
“With your help I think we've collected enough pee to charge the battery. After school, if you've time, we can meet up and connect to a phone to try and make a call?”
Lisa looked at Grant and he nodded. “I've got athletics practice immediately after school. I'll be free to meet up after dinner. You can play with Roscoe's toys until then, if you wish?” He clearly looked down scornfully at my experiments, and he was taller than me.
“Okay, sure. We can walk home together. My parents won't be home, so I'm free. We can do homework together, as well.”
I groaned. “I'd rather discuss the development of P2E.”
“I know.” She smiled that intoxicating smile, which she knew would persuade me to do whatever she wanted. “But you need to complete the homework as well as develop P2E – just incase it's not successful.” She winked at me and the teacher opened the door and we went into the class for another pointless recitation of English literature. I yawned and went to sit at the back, where I could sleep without being noticed by the teacher.
After school, Lisa was waiting by the exit with Grant and they kissed and waved goodbye as I approached. Grant clearly didn't feel any threat from me being with his girlfriend. Lisa and I left together for the short walk back to my apartment.
Opening the door, Mum greeted us as if we were both her kids. She treated Lisa like one of the family – and since Lisa's parents were hardly ever around after school, Lisa had effectively grown up in my house, with Mum caring for her more than her own parents did. I knew she really liked Lisa and hoped she would become my girlfriend. She had been really helpful in advising me on how to handle the constant rejection, and playing hard-to-get by Lisa. Mum was very supportive. I could wait.
“Juice and sandwiches are in the shed, waiting for you. I know you want to continue working on P2E.”
“Thanks Mum.” I gave her a hug and Lisa and I entered our spare room, which we referred to as 'the shed', as if we had a garden, where the shed would have been located.
“So what's next, boss?” Lisa smiled at me and dropped her schoolbag on the floor and pulled up a chair next to my work-bench.
I gingerly opened the carry case and took out my prototype, full of pee, and placed it on the workbench. “Have you got an old phone, I asked you to bring? We can try it?”
Lisa opened her schoolbag and took out an old phone and handed it to me. I recognised it as one of her first phones. Her family were wealthy and she changed her phone every year regardless. I only changed my phone when it died, and always for the cheapest and simplest model. She teased me and called me a 'dinosaur', stuck in the past.
I found the right cable form my stack and connected it to the socket in the side of the prototype and paused. “Okay, this is it!” We'd been collecting pee for two weeks now and charging the battery inbetween, without any success. We had checked and rechecked the calculations as to the amount of pee needed to reach the transformer activation threshold in order to provide sufficient current to charge the phone, to make a call and surely this time, it would be enough?
I reached over to turn on the converter – there was a flash and a huge bang making us jump as the phone blew up in front of us.
Lisa wasn't phased at this set-back and recovered first. “No worries, I have plenty more old phones. What do you think went wrong?”
Mum came running in at that moment. “What happened? Are you okay?” She was clearly concerned by the loud bang.
“Don't worry, Mum, first attempt failed, that's all!” She shook her head and retreated mumbling something that sounded like “Kids!”
I grabbed my test probes and disconnected the smouldering phone and threw it in the bin. I probed around the circuit and checked the readings in my mind against what I expected, following the magnified circuit diagram displayed on the wall.
“That's strange, this capacitor has the wrong voltage...Oh, no, I've used the wrong one – it's maximum voltage is too low. Hang on a sec...” I switched off the prototype and turned it upside down on the workbench. I picked up my pliers and with my left-hand tightened them on one of the legs of the capacitor, then picked up the soldering iron with my right hand, briefly touched the hot nozzel on the pad, loosened the solder and pulled out first one leg and then the other and removed the capacitor. I replaced the soldering iron in the stand and rummaged in my small storage drawers for a higher-rated capacitor, found one and bent the legs so they fitted into the holes on the PCB and bent them over, to hold them in place, turned the board over and asked Lisa to hold the board, as she had done many times before, while I soldered the pads.
“Okay, let's try again. Have you got another old phone?”
“Sure. One of my friend's phones.” She reached into her schoolbag and pulled out a bright pink phone with rabbit ears.
“Cute!” I said and she smiled and handed it to me. I laid it carefully on my workbench, connected the cables and said, “Okay, fingers in your ears for another big bang?”
“Don't be so pessimistic! We're getting closer! Look on the bright side, there was enough energy to cause the bang, so we must be close.”
Lisa was always optimistic, supportive and encouraging. Some of the many aspects of her personality that I admired. Sometimes, I wondered why she was so supportive, but she was clearly genuinely trying to motivate me. I smiled, and reached over to check everything was securely connected, moved some tools aside to clear a space, took a deep breath and turned the switch on...no bang!
“Well, that was different.” Lisa leaned forwards to study the phone.
“It's charging – look!” She pointed at the small battery indicator flashing on the phone's screen – we've done it!” She jumped up and so did I and we hugged to celebrate. I looked in her eyes that were so close to mine and the feel of her hair on my face was so soft, I turned her face and tried to kiss her, but she turned away.
“No, don't,” she whispered. “You know I'm dating Grant. Don't spoil our friendship by trying to kiss me. Please?” I nodded. I knew that she would say that, but I was so happy to be able to celebrate our success with her, it seemed the natural thing to do.
We sat down in silence and watched the phone battery charging light flashing, as if smiling at us. She broke the silence first.
“So, what's next, boss? Where do we go from here?”
I cleared my throat and turned to face her, and became more business-like, regaining control over my feelings. “Dad said that if I could demonstrate the prototype worked and successfully charged something, I could supply them with the drawings and he would pass them to the design and development team to productionise it. They would make an initial batch of ten, which we could try out in different locations and with different electronic devices. If they were successful, then he would present it to your parents at the next product design meeting to see if they would take over the production.”
3 months later – School Science Fair
It was the end of term school science fair and my P2E had been productionised by the design team at our parents' company. It looked smartly packaged, smooth edges and light-weight. Much more rugged and easy to use than the prototype I had hand-assembled in my shed. The company were circulating samples around many overseas charities, who were interested in supplying it to third world countries, where sewage and sanitary facilities were rudimenary and electricity supplies intermittent and sparsely provided, but none of them had placed any orders yet.
I arrived early in the school hall with my photographic display backboard, samples and technical details and was directed to my location by the competition organiser, Ms Kelleway. She was the senior science teacher, and surprised that I had entered for the first time, and looked down her nose at me while checking her list.
“So, what exactly does P2E mean, then, Hadstock?” She barely remembered my name as my contribution in her classes had been little to non-existent. She clearly didn't believe I had absorbed enough science knowledge to answer any of her questions, let alone make a meaningful entry in the science fair.
“P2E is a way for generating electricity from urine, Ms Kelleway. Pee to Electricity. P2E for short. Clever, isn't it?” I smiled at her and she just snorted in disbelief at how anyone that had never contributed to her lessons could make anything useful and just directed me to my spot and walked away. I began assembling the display. Other contestants were already in place and the hall was slowly filling up.
“Hi Ross, need a hand?” It was Barry, he had come early as I had requested of all of the team who had helped me by providing urine.
“Sure, grab the end of the board, we can stand it up against the wall.” Barry did as I asked and we moved things into place. It looked like the others were going to be too late to help set up. Oh well, I thought, it's not essential, but it would have been great to have their support.
With two of us, it didn't take long to complete the stall set up, and Barry wandered off to look around the other displays, as the hall was nearly full now. I heard some loud voices and looked across to the source of the sounds. Lisa and Grant were shouting at each, clearly having an argument. I couldn't hear the words, but the sound was angry. As I watched, Grant looked like he was about to hit Lisa and she flinched and held up her hands. He stopped himself and hesitated then stormed out of the hall and slammed the door loudly. Lisa looked upset and I went over to her. She turned as if to leave, but when she saw me she reached out to hug me and was sobbing slightly into my shoulder.
“What happened to you two? Grant looked really angry at something.”
Inbetween sobs, she explained. “He's dumped me. He was jealous of the amount of time I was spending working with you on P2E. He doesn't see the point and was constantly reminding me how useless you and the idea were. I believe in P2E – I think it's got great possibilities, and he got angry when I defended the project. He thinks we are more than friends and doesn't trust me.” She sobbed and hugged me tighter. “I explained that we have known each other forever, and that we're just very good and close friends and that I would never cheat on anyone. He's very simple-minded. In his view – if a boy spends time with a girl, alone, for long periods, they MUST be boyfriend and girlfriend. He cannot see any other possibility. Very narrow-minded. Sorry to pour out my problems, but you've always been my best friend and always been there for me.”
“No need to say sorry! Of course, I am here for you!” I hugged her tighter, enjoying the opportunity, but feeling sad for her being upset over the break up.
“But the final straw was that he's accepted a place at an Athletics College on the west coast. We'd discussed going to the same university near here, and he's decided now that he wants to focus on sports not a career. I asked how he thought we could stay together and he said that athletics was more important to him than our relationship! Then I said some rude things and he got angry and nearly hit me – that was it for me – no way could I be with anyone who wanted to hit me!”
“Oh dear! Heh, don't worry – if I win the science fair you promised to go out with me, so I'm sorry it ended that way, but I'm glad you're free now.” I tried to cheer her up, and it seemed to work as a weak smile crossed her face.
“Thanks Ross, you're a great friend! Of course I'll go out with you - if you win the science fair!”
We hugged again and I looked into her eyes, smiling back at me. She was so beautiful, I wanted to try and kiss her, but was interrupted by the sound of the bell and Ms Kelleway announcing the opening of the competition and the judges had arrived to view the exhibits.
“Where's Shanice? I was expecting her by now? She promised to be here.” I whispered to Lisa. Lisa turned towards me and shook her head.
“Shanice has dropped out of school.” She shook her head in disapproval.
“Why, what happened?”
“She's pregnant. It's too late to get an abortion. In this area the time limit is six weeks and now it is 4 months. If she had known earlier, then perhaps she could have done so, but she didn't realise in time. She's been forced to drop out of school until after the baby is born.”
“Oh no! Poor Shanice. She should have told us earlier.” Then a thought crossed my mind.
“Heh, do you remember her high voltage reading on P2E? Maybe that was an early indicator of pregnancy! Wouldn't it be amazing if we could use P2E as a pregnancy tester as well as to generate electricity?”
Lisa looked amazed and had cheered up quickly – getting over the break up with Grant was clearly not troubling her as much as I'd expected – I was pleased, as it would not be a cloud over our possibly starting a relationship – if she wanted more than just friendship – finally!
“Yes – I wonder if it's true – maybe we should test some other possible pregnant women and see what happens. Dad said he is testing all the staff at work, just to get more details on the average voltage ranges and he said there were some wide differences – I'll have to ask him if any of them turned out to be pregnant – by the way, he's invited you over for dinner this evening, I forgot to mention it earlier. I hope that's okay?”
Wow, I thought, my first EVER invitation to dinner with Lisa's parents – things were looking up! Even if we didn't win the science fair, this was going to be my best ever day!
I didn't have a chance to reply as at that moment the three judges came up to our stand and introduced themselves and we shook hands.
“So, generating electricity from urine – interesting – please explain to us how it works?”
I showed them a break-down model of the insides of the P2E kit and explained the various parts and the process.
“This is the urine collector – the person pees in here, then this is the catalyst, we have tried different chemicals to maximise the electricity generated. This is the sensor, the key part of generating the elctricity and this is the battery.” I completed my guided tour of the various components.
“We believe that it would be very useful in areas where electricity is intermittent or unreliable – mainly third world countries, for example. It also serves a secondary purpose of collecting and processing urine, thereby helping in areas where there are no toilets as well.” Lisa wanted to chip in and add something, so I paused.
“And, we believe that the voltage reading from the urine samples may also be an early indicator of other medical conditions.” The judges looked up in amazement.
“Do you have any evidence for that outrageous assertion?” they clearly thought we were making it up, just to oversell the P2E.
“Well, the average voltage reading is around 8, but during testing, we discovered that one of our testers had a particularly high reading – around 14 volts – and we have now discovered that she is pregnant, so a high reading may indicate early stage pregnancy.” The judges were making notes as Lisa spoke.
“So it may have further roles in predicting other illnesses – of course it needs significantly more testing on both healthy and unhealthy volunteers to fully calibrate the device, but these early tests indicate huge promise for the future.”
The judges made some notes and then moved on to the next exhibit. Many other people were circulating and answering questions of both Lisa and I, so we were not left alone at all, and soon the judges were ready to announce the results.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, “Ms Kelleway shouted over the noise and waited for the hubbub to subside before continuing. “I welcome Ms Stanford to speak on behalf of the judges.” People applauded and she passed the microphone to Ms Stanford.
“Thank you everyone. Thanks should go to all the competitiors for a very high standard of entries this year.” She stopped to applaud and everyone joined in.
“But, of course, there can only be one winner. As always, it's a very difficult task to select the best among so many good entries, but we also like to consider the commercial possibilities of the exhibits, not just their novelty or the complexity or the effort put in by the contestants.” She paused as some chattering had interrupted her and Ms Kelleway waved her hands to try and calm people down, for Ms Stanford to announce the result.
“So we unanimously believed that one of today's exhibits has particularly enormous marketing potential, and would be of specific benefit in the third world, where the need would be greatest...” she paused for maximum effect, but I knew we had won from the introduction and put my arm round Lisa and grabbed her hand and we held our breath.
“...for making electricity from urine, the winner is P2E.”
We jumped up and down and Lisa pushed me forwards to collect the prize, but I wouldn't let go of her hand and pulled her with me. She tried to push it away, but the crowd had parted to make room for us and she stopped fighting and decided to allow herself to be dragged forwards to jointly receive the prize. Now I finally had the chance to hold her hand I was not going to let go!
We walked to the front and Ms Stanford handed me the prize and then we shook hands with all the judges. Even Ms Kelleway shook my hand and said “Well done, Roscoe, I didn't realise you had it in you!”
The rest of the afternoon passed in a blur as so many people wanted to talk to us and congratulate us, but eventually the Science Fair ended. I turned to Lisa, feeling nervous about what I was going to do next.
“Yes, Ross. What is it? We need to pack this stuff away.”
I hesitated. I could see in her eyes the playful, teasing look, as she knew what I was going to ask, but was not going to make it easy for me by saying anything.
“Now that we have won the Science Fair and...” I swallowed hard, what if she had only been teasing me?
“...and you said if we won the Science Fair, you...” She was smiling, and enjoying making me squirm and struggle.
“And what, silly?”
“Will you go out with me?” I finally said it. Lisa paused to extend the stress of the moment. Then she threw her arms around me and whispered in my ear.
“Of course! I always keep my promises!” I hugged her tightly. At last! I was beaming and Barry tapped us on the shoulders and we parted to look at him.
“What happened? You've won already? Delayed celebration?”
“No, silly, I'm just very happy – Lisa said she'll go out with me!”
“Congrats, you two – it's been a long time happening! FINALLY, you crazy two get together, at last!”
Barry then helped us to pack everything and walked back to my house with the things.
“Thanks, Barry. Thanks for everything.” He still looked sad.
“Congrats on winning – I had a look around and the judges were right, P2E has the best potential for marketing. The other entries may have been more complicated, but not of as much use as P2E. Well done.” He shook our hands again.
“Are you alright?”
I'm in shock! I just called Geoff to see where he was – he's not usually unreliable – his parents answered, they are in hospital – Geoff...” he hesitated and choked back a sob, “Geoff's seriously ill. He's got testicular cancer. It's too advanced and inoperable. Apparently the doctors said that if it had been caught 3-4 months ago, they could have removed the tumour and he would have had a good chance of a full recovery. But you know Geoff, he never complains about pain or sickness or anything...” Barry couldn't continue and started sobbing. Lisa went to hug him.
“Terrible news. Poor Geoff. We should try and visit him tomorrow.” I nodded in agreement, but then had another thought.
“Heh, wait a minute! Geoff's scores were always the lowest. We used to tease him about the poor voltage-generation of his pee, but I wonder, maybe, it was related to the cancer? If we had known that a low voltage reading indicated early-stage cancer then maybe we could have warned him – if only we had known?”
“Barry, Do you want to stop for a juice?”
“No, thanks. I'm off to the hospital to see Geoff. We can meet next week, now that the holidays have started.”
“Okay, sure – please give him our best wishes. We'll try and visit on Saturday or Sunday.”
“Okay, I'll tell him. And congrats you two for finally getting together! You really make a great couple!” We looked at each other and smiled and Barry walked away.
I opened the door and started moving things inside. Mum was waiting there.
“How did you get on?”
“We won!” Mum came over and wrapped her arms around both of us and beamed in delight.
“I knew you would! It's a great product. I've talked to your dad about it many times and the company is delighted with the early marketing reports. You're going over to Lisa's parents for dinner, aren't you? I think they want to talk about P2E.” Mum stopped as she could see my ear-splitting grin indicated something else.
“Heh, what is it, Ross, I've not seen you with such a huge smile before? Is there something else you want to tell me?”
I looked at Lisa and put my arm around her and pulled her closer. I didn't have to say anything, Mum guessed.
“AT LAST!!! I wondered when the two of you would realise that you should be together, you've grown up together and got on so well, you make the perfect couple! Double congratulations!” And she gave another huge three-way hug, crushing us.
Eventually I broke away. “I'll just leave the stuff in the shed, then we can walk over to Lisa's house.”
“Okay. Have fun!” Mum was beaming at us both as we walked out of the door and closed it behind us and walked the short distance to Lisa's house in silence and disbelief at winning the Science Fair and Lisa agreeing to be my girlfriend.
Reaching Lisa's house, she unlocked the door and we went in. It was my first time in her house and I looked around in surprise at how much larger it was than my house, and the furnishings and displays looked extremely expensive. Was I really going to be accepted by her rich parents as a suitable boyfriend for their only daughter?
Lisa led me into the dining room where her parents were waiting and they stood up as we entered.
“Roscoe! A pleasure to meet you!” Her father held out his hand for a warm handshake. Her mother followed and I shook her hand and they indicated I should sit between Lisa and her father at the table. I sat down and her father indicated to the butler to commence serving dinner – they even had a butler! Lisa hadn't mentioned that before. I had a lot to ask her later.
“So tell me about your ideas for P2E?” her father offered me a glass of juice, which I took gratefully.
“Well...” I hesitated. He was a successful business man and my dad's boss, as well as being Lisa's dad. I felt doubly intimidated. He could see I was nervous and tried to help.
“Don't be nervous, Ross, you're among friends here. Lisa has talked a great deal about you over the years, so we feel we already know you, even though we have never met.”
“Thank you, sir.” I swallowed.
“No need to call me sir! Makes me feel old. Just call me Henry.”
“Thank you, er, Henry.” I felt more relaxed and started my now standard P2E introduction speech, but he interrupted me.
“No need for all of that – I know the background. Your father works for me, remember, he introduced P2E to us some months ago and we have been testing our staff and have some interesting results to share with you, but I wanted to hear your plans first.”
“Okay. Thanks. Yes, the early test results indicated that with sufficient pee we could generate usable amounts of electricity – to charge a phone for example – without too much difficulty.” Henry was watching me closely and listening intently, so I continued:
“But, just today, we discovered that a high reading – 14 volts – indicated that one of our friends was pregnant – and a low reading – around 3 volts – indicated that sadly one of our friends had testicular cancer. If this can be repeated in other tests and verified across a number of symptoms, then it may be possible as a predictor for other medical conditions. So, in addition to generating electricity in remote and inaccessible areas, the medical condition detector may be another possible benefit of P2E.” I let out a deep breath as I finished and looked at Henry for a response. I was pleased to see he was smiling and nodding.
“Yes, your results have been confirmed by our early-stage testing on staff, family and friends. We have tested over one thousand people over the last few months and discovered possible connections with other cancers, as well as other conditions. In all cases, the person was unaware of their medical condition at the time of the urine test, but we asked all of them to notify us of any medical conditions they subsequently developed. We discovered one person was using heroin, and another was inebriated. We now have some voltage test readings for all of these conditions. Three of our staff were also pregnant!” He smiled back. He paused as the main meal was served by his butler, and then continued.
“So, we would like to offer you a job in the research and development team. If P2E is as successful as we expect, then we would like to set up a separate division to focus on exploiting the possible opportunities for P2E in the future, with you at the head. And, maybe, in the future, we could spin off P2E as a separate company, but that's a long way in the future. So, what do you say? Would you like to work for us? Or would you rather go to university? Or would you like some time to think about it?”
“I don't need any time to think, Henry, I would be delighted to accept your kind offer!” I turned to face him and shook his hand, with a big beaming smile on my face. I was very happy. Lisa patted me on the back as well and I turned to eat some food, knowing there was something else I needed to ask. After a few mouthfuls, I plucked up my courage and turned to face him again and cleared my throat and swallowed.
“Henry, there is something else I need to ask.” He put down his fork and turned to face me. I reached for Lisa's hand and squeezed. She squeezed it back.
“With your permission, I would like the honour of Lisa being my girlfriend.” There, I had said it. He looked at me with a surprised look on his face and then smiled.
“I wondered what had taken you so long to ask. You two have been friends forever. I wondered when you would finally get together. Of course we approve! He took his wife's hand to emphasise that it was a joint decision. Welcome to our family!”
We toasted to the new business and personal relationships and I felt very happy and squeezed Lisa's hand again. At last. All my dreams were coming true!
Back to 2030
Lisa didn't hesitate for long. She had been half-expecting this question, since she had teased me and said after P2E had been nominated, she said that if I win the award for the greatest invention of the decade that her parents would finally allow her to marry me.
“Yes, Ross, of course I'll marry you!”