It was in the early days of the Galactic Empire that the people of Trantor covered their planet with steel. As the capital of a star spanning conglomeration of planets Trantor attracted billions of people and everyone wanted a bit of real estate. Slowly the world was covered in metal, forests were ripped up, mountains were flattened, seas were filled in. Towards the end of the process there were a few rivers left on the world. They had mostly been covered by massive metal plates that were specially treated to be resistant to the inevitable erosion. The effect was to turn mighty rivers into simple pipes, albeit pipes with a natural base to them. Further up the rivers the process continued and streams, brooks, burns and creeks were covered over with steel. The planetary engineers were careful to label the steel covers so that in the future it would be easy to see which tributary lead to which river and eventually to which reservoir. The covers also stored information on the soil beneath and could be used to work out the quality of the water flowing below.

As always happens in society fads and fashions waxed and waned. At one particular point in the history of Trantor an enterprising fellow by the name of Archifak Troom decided he needed rather more money than was traditionally given to employees who work hard and play by the rules. He decided to sell people something they needed, even if they didn’t know they needed it yet. Since all of Trantor was supplied clean and fresh water from the reservoirs, Troom realised there was a gap in the market for some natural spring water, brought directly from the streams that were covered over many years before.

He set up a small factory at one brook, drilled through the metal and bottled the water that sprang up to meet him. It wasn’t long before his bottled water was selling like hot cakes throughout the upper classes of the planet. There was perhaps little chemical difference between water from the reservoir and water from the streams, but the packaging was delightful and people were certain that they could taste the difference. Archifak Troom became a wealthy man. He traveled around Trantor boring holes and tasting water. He rejected some streams, developed others and soon his brand of Troom’s Marvelous Miracle H2O was a household name.

Of course the corporations moved in. If one person could make so much money then it was only right that a group of already wealthy people should make a lot of money too. The corporations bought up the right to several river tops and started to drill, to process, to bottle and to sell their natural products. They knew where to drill since long ago the planetologists had carefully labeled the coverings of the creeks and it was easy to find brooks that should have been the tastiest, the cleanest, the best selling water producers the planet had ever seen. Unlike Troom the corporations had details of what the markings on the steel coverings meant. They knew without looking the properties of the water below.

And yet people ignored the corporation’s water. Everyone continued to flock to Troom’s brand and watched him as he made his way from one far of part of Trantor to the next, carefully tasting the water and declaring it fit or unfit for selling. The media of the day had to ask him: “Troom, you are an amazing person indeed, but you are just one person. Can you tell us how it is that you continue to outsell the corporations?”

“Why it’s simple my dear friends. I spend a great deal of time tasting the water and the corporations forgot one important thing, ” replied the diamond studded water king, “You can’t judge a brook by its cover.”

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