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The Megas gathered together at 9 AM, minus Olympia, who was stuck in Coach’s office talking with Agent Roark from the HBI. Leona was there before Julia and Darken arrived, and was already handing out big manila envelopes. Everyone had big grins as they dug papers out and pored over them. Coach himself was sitting in one of the several recliners arranged by the Plexiglas partition that overlooked the stadium, seemingly engrossed in reading a copy of the Miami Herald.
“Hello Miss Ambrose. This is your paystub as well your monthly ancillary earnings statement,” Leona said as Julia and Darken took envelopes from her.
“Oh...my...God,” Julia said as she stared at the sheaf of printouts in her hands.
Darken laughed. “What did I tell you, huh?”
First-year Hyper League team members all earned a .0001% share of their team’s proceeds from the sale of anything tied to their intellectual property, anything from video games, DVDs, streaming shows, books, toys, and apparel, as well as revenue generated from ticket and concession sales. There was also a regular monthly paystub, already direct-deposited, for her Megas salary of $20,000. The royalty check Julia held in her hand was for nearly fifty thousand dollars. That meant that the Megas had made the Wheadall Empire roughly $500 million in just the last month alone.
It also meant that Julia was rich.
“Nice, right?” Tyrant said. “Your cut will double next year.”
Graviton sidled up to Julia and flung an arm over her shoulder as he said in a rather bad imitation of Scar from The Lion King, “Stick with us and you’ll never go hungry again.”
“I never went hungry in the first place, but thanks anyway,” Julia grinned.
The chatter among the Megas grew as Coach Willpower carefully refolded his newspaper. He slammed it down onto a coffee table and everyone shut up. “If you’re all done yammering away, I think it’s time we got on with the real reason we’re here.”
“Have a good practice, everyone. I’ll see you all again on Wednesday for the press tour,” Leona said, already on her way out the door.
“Press tour?” Julia said as she followed behind Coach, Mekka and the others on the way down to the grounds.
Darken said, “Kind of like having to show up and stop super-powered criminals every now and then. One of the necessary evils of the business.”
“Tours aren’t without some perks,” Tyrant said with a wink.
“Ugh. You’re talking about hyper-groupies?” Julia sneered.
“Yes he is,” said Graviton. “Now, it can be pretty scary as a guy with all the attention we get.”
“Scary? Speak for yourself,” said Tyrant.
Graviton said, “I’m honestly afraid of my fans. They take all this way more seriously than we do.”
“Hey Maria, you scared of your fans?” Julia said. “How bad is it for us girls?”
Mekka said, without looking over her shoulder at Julia, “If you can’t handle the fame, quit.”
“That’s basically her motto,” Tyrant whispered.
“I heard that, Tyrone,” Mekka said.
Julia was relieved—tired, but relieved—once the press tour was over. They flew virtually across the entire country for a week, making stops in Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, all in one of several private jets owned by the Wheadalls. They held a half dozen interview sessions and made panel appearances at two big fan conventions. The fan response was amazing. A few haters showed up in every city to try and boo them away, since they were bigger fans of their home teams, but it never got really bad. A Hyperhuman League fan was a Hyperhuman League fan, from sea to shining sea.
Julia wondered if the level of love for the teams overall was as strong in other countries. She knew the international rivalries seemed to generate a little less conflict between opposing team members. However, she’d only been a Mega for a couple days before she realized that most of the drama occurring between U.S. teams was so much more overplayed because both the team owners and the media encouraged it. More drama tended to keep the teams in the regular news cycles, which translated to more public awareness and more ticket and merchandise sales. Everyone benefited from over-the-top antics.
The team jet made a final stop in Denver as a special treat from the Wheadalls, where they were treated to some skiing lessons from the current Winter X Games world champion, Josie Kocela. Coach Willpower had come along for the press tour and done his share of interviews, but was uncharacteristically taciturn for most of the trip. He disappeared while the Megas and Leona were up on the side of a snow-covered mountain in frigid temperatures learning how to run a slalom course and perform simple tricks on a halfpipe.
Julia met Olympia and Mekka at the ski resort’s main bar, and sat at a table with her back to a roaring fireplace. She said, “Do you two mind if I join you? Mike and Tyrone are still trying to impress Josie on the slopes and I can’t stand to watch them crash and burn, literally and figuratively, anymore.”
“No, have a seat. I was just about to head back to my cabin or whatever,” said Maria, starting to get up.
Olympia fixed her with a look and said, “Hey, sit back down. I’ve just about had enough of this attitude.” Maria sighed and sat, while Julia waited for Olympia to nod toward her before she sat with them at the small round table. Olympia motioned for a waiter and told him, “Can you refill our wines and get our friend here a glass?”