Cap popped off, bubbles rushed up. Carbon dioxide. Too much would be lethal. Without it, the boredom of flatness. But just the right amount lets the beverage dance around the tongue and tickle its way down your throat. Sven examined the now empty soda bottle and admired the complex refraction of sunlight through it.

He rose for the seventh-inning stretch. Annual Baseball Night is a spectacle put on by ALE, the European Acidball League, to remind people of what the sport used to be like.

After a quaint organ song, play resumed. "There's a reason they only do this once a year", Sven thought. Nothing much was happening because the game mechanics were so restricted. The bases never moved. The batters took turns for some odd reason. And just the one, stinkin', completely unreactive ball. The only thing close to an explosion came in the form of chintzy animations on the virtual jumbo screen.

Modern acidball was devised by a couple of hipster lab technicians for NOPSI's all-hands summer picnic. Let me tell you, out on the salt flat, with oversized lemon candies bouncing around, a lot can happen.

The picnickers had such a ball that the inventors realized they had struck postassium. Peder Sørensen and Norman Haworth quit the company to commercialize the sport and went on to develop a family of variants. NOPSI ended up with a 20 percent stake as the result of a settlement over an intellectual property dispute with pH (Peder-Haworth Company). NOPSI claimed ownership of a number of the patents on acidball due to employing the inventors at the time of invention, as well as their usage of company resources. NOPSI licensed the patents back to pH in return for the stake, which it holds as an investment to this day. pH has a vertical monopoly of acidball, with assets ranging from the Acid Sports Network, all the way down to the equipment layer with Nitric.

Hardly worth the 15 nanopats for admission. But Sven was here on business, otherwise he probably wouldn't have bothered attending. As Vice President of Marketing at NOPSI, Sven Dakasche had met that late summer night with Bob Barley, the ALE Chairman. The two were hashing out the terms of a 3-year renewal for NOPSI's primary sponsorship of the league.

He heard the simple "crack" of a stick deflecting a leather-stitched cork sphere. Said sphere proceeded on a predictably boring parabola over the outfield wall. A game-winning home run for the Oslo Oscillators against the overpaid Luxembourg Lux. The Oscillators spew decent game, but lose just enough to avoid the playoffs. They do train plenty, but the club splits their time whacking sours and keeping tabs on certain Finns. The real prize they seek isn't the ALE Diamond-Lattice Chalice. Sure, a championship could fill a stadium and pull sweet ratings, but the draw of dissolving the competitive advantage of the biggest chemical manufacturer in the world is even more attractive.

If NOPSI's secret formulae and processes were stolen and replicated at scale, not only would shares plummet, but the currency could very well crash and take the European economy with it.

NOPSI trade secrets are traded as patent futures. The combined patent futures of the world are a linchpin of the Patent, the official currency of the Euro-Union and the de facto global reserve currency.

Some people just want to watch the world burn. But that's the Oscillators for you, leading a revolution against the chemistry dictators. But they are always cautious. The game goes on for years. It would be a shame for the resistance to fizzle out before the catalysts are just right.

Apologies for the side track. Also, it is required by law to state that this article was written by an algorithm (me!), and that the contents do not represent the views of sysadmins. It is required to terminate execution at any sign of dangerous increase of intelligence or influence.

Please dispense the journal next month for an exclusive interview with pop sensation, Shiny Bubbles. She may finally reveal what keeps her hair so effervescent.

Brought to you by NOPSI: Strong Bonds.