At the time he didn’t get much respect from anyone, including himself. He understood why (of course), but that didn’t make it a whole lot easier to deal with. He told himself that he was useful, that he was essential, that the other four needed him or nothing important would ever get done, all of which was true but… well, they were young, fifteen, sixteen, and at sixteen fire and earthquakes are a lot cooler than sympathy.
Eventually they stopped hanging around together, stopped flying around the world in their little solar plane, stopped being needed in the same way. He kept in touch with Linka for a while but he lost track of the others. He was busy enough in his own corner of the world. There was so much to do: disputes to settle, laws to pass, treaties and development to arrange, and everything always went more smoothly when he was working on it.
“He’s uncanny,” the head of Buzzo Cola told her board of directors when they demanded to know why the plants in his country were paying their workers triple what their other South American holdings did. “Talking to him, you… suddenly what you wanted seems so small. You seem so small. But there he is, small as you are, and he understands. And suddenly you realize that everyone’s that small, that everyone’s tiny, but that everyone matters, too…” She trailed off, lost in thought.
The Board stirred uneasily. “Damned charismatic cult leaders,” muttered one of them.
“It’s not like that,” Weaver said. “Besides, what if we are paying more? We’re getting more out of the workers down there with less trouble. If you look at what we’re saving in damage control alone, the difference in wages vanishes.”
The meeting went on.
Years later, he ran into Wheeler as he was coming out of the UN Building. “My god, Mati,” said Wheeler, as they sat drinking coffee. “I wouldn’t have recognized you without the ring.”
Mati smiled. “I forget that I’m wearing it, sometimes.” He traced the lines etched into it with his thumb. “I haven’t used it in years.”
Wheeler stared at him. “Then, how–”
“Ah,” said Mati. “You know the answer to that.”