Title: Overload

Genre: Drama/Action/Adventure

Rating: PG-13 to possible R (for violence)

Summary: Since the second Big Bang, Richie has been getting smarter. But soon his intelligence becomes an issue of interest to others, and he and three unlikely people must band together, working past rivalries and struggling through obstacles while trying to figure out what their respective fates are. Unconventional nonslash romance. R&R

Disclaimer: I don't own Static Shock. If I did, it wouldn't be cancelled and they'd be making a Season Five. :-(

Author's Note: I'm posting this on after first posting on Static Shock Fan Page, which is a super-cool Static Shock forum. You can find the URL in my profile. This fanfiction will hopefully be unique and original… This is Richie-centric, and I'm bringing to the surface minor characters. I'm trying to pull them out into the spotlight where they can shine with all the hidden potential that's squashed in their diminutive roles.

Chapter One

It was a crisp November night in Dakota. The sky was black with sparkling stars dotting across it and a large gibbous moon hung overhead, shining bright moonbeams down and illuminating the land below. Static and Gear soared high above the city, peering through the misty clouds and scouring the streets for trouble. The city was relatively quiet now, and crime was currently at a low. The moonlight caught on the glass windows of buildings and splashed back into their eyes, but that was the only bother of the night. They were circling the rather large boundaries of Dakota, sometimes skimming the treetops or performing potentially dangerous acrobatic tricks in mid air to pass the time.

Static stood straighter on his flying disk, stretching his legs and reaching his arms upward with a satisfied groan. He plopped down, this time sitting with his legs dangling off the side. He leaned back on his hands and wiggled his fingers, sending out crackling streams of electricity in his wake and steering his course. Gear, who was flying alongside him, gave a small laugh.

"What?" Static asked good-naturedly. "Even a superhero needs his rest."

Gear grinned back and yawned, stretching as well. He'd changed his costume a bit to account for the colder weather, adding a dark green overcoat similar to Static's to match his uniform. The longsleeves had white stripes along their length and Backpack still hung in its usual place on his back.

"You got that right, bro." He agreed, his voice sounding heavy. "I definitely need some z's."

"Rich," Static said disbelievingly, turning to face his best friend. "That's all you've done the past week and you still look like you got hit by a train. Or maybe Godzilla. Or maybe Godzilla riding a train."

It was true; if the dark circles under his eyes were any indication, Richie hadn't been sleeping well, and even his jokes had been far and few. He was paler than normal, his face looked gaunt, and he was leaner than he'd ever been before.

Gear yawned again, louder.

"Yeah, well, I do feel like I just got hit by a train. And not only was Godzilla riding it, he was the conductor." He responded dryly. "Been feeling bad for a couple weeks… killer headache too." He added, as if an afterthought.

They flew in companionable silence, passing above the surrounding forest, which was already changing with the coming of winter. The green leaves were falling from their homes in the treetops in crisp, multi colored flurries. Golden brown, reddened yellows, and terra cotta hues made the forest floor a lively homage to fall. Gear swerved a bit in the air, dipping a bit too far and almost colliding with a tall tree. He weaved through the chilly air like a drunken bird, rapidly losing alititude as he did so. Static gasped rushing forward to help, but Gear seemed to realize it a second before he would have crashed, and pulled up sharply. The treetop rustled, and leaves swirled upward and circled him once before he righted himself in the air and looked down warily at the offending plant.

"Yo, Gear, you okay?" Static called, genuinely concerned. He was back to standing on his disk, and his hands were already white with power, ready to help. Gear pushed his boots into high gear and was hovering next to Static a moment later. He rubbed his temples distractedly under his helmet, closing his eyes before answering.

"Uh, yeah, just… lost control… I'll, um… hey, I'm gonna, ya know, head in, you can finish patrol for tonight, right?" He asked weakly. Static raised an eyebrow.

"Richie, what's wrong with you? This is the fourth time this week you've bailed on me, and if you're –"

"V!" Gear cut him off sharply, backing away. "I'm fine! Just… a headache, okay? Headache."

And with that he turned and rocketed off toward his home, leaving Static confused, worried, and left to guard Dakota on his own.

The bell signaling the start of class rang just as Virgil skidded through the classroom door. He bolted forward, slammed his books down, and vaulted right over the desk and smoothly into his seat behind it. A few people clapped. Virgil looked behind him and grinned sheepishly, giving a feeble wave.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Hawkins, but impressive gymnastic tricks will not allow you to pass my class." Came a curt voice.

Virgil froze and his smile fell. He turned around in his desk so that he faced the front, startled to see his teacher standing right above him, palms flat on the desk, leaning forward with a very angry scowl on her face. Virgil gulped.

"So, you, uh, find me impressive?" He joked weakly.

"Mr. Hawkins," She began, her sharp voice pelting him with every word. "You have been late to my class more times than I can count. I've given you ample warnings, ample! And now I'm going to carry out the punishment I said I would. You have detention, Virgil. And I'm calling your father; I believe a conference is in order."

She spun and stalked regally back to the blackboard, where she began to explain a complicated math problem to the class. Virgil groaned.

'Just what I need… My pops having a conference with my teacher… Ugh… Maybe Richie can help me pull my grade up before then… it might soften the blow…'

He glanced to his right, suddenly noticing that his best friend wasn't there. His eyes widened and he looked behind him, catching Frieda's eye. When the class finally ended, he paused in the doorway, waiting for her. She was one of the last to exit, having a seat toward the back of the room, and he was impatiently tapping his foot by the time she got there. Daisy was with her.

"What's wrong, Virgil?" She said with concern as they started walking to their lockers.

"Frieda, Daisy, have either of you seen Richie?" Virgil asked.

"No," Frieda said, pushing her red hair out of her eyes. "But I'm on my way to the journalism office. I need to make a phone call to Shelly Sandoval; it's part of the internship I've got at the news station. I can check for him around there."

"Yeah." Daisy said, nodding. "And I'm heading to Chem. Lab. He's into that kind of stuff, maybe he skipped to do an expiriment or something. What's up, is something wrong?"

"Thanks," Virgil said greatfully. "'Cause, he's been acting real funny an' something was wrong last night but he wouldn't tell me."

"I saw him yesterday, but not since then. And you're right, he's been acting really strangely, Virgil." Frieda frowned. Daisy nodded.

"Yeah, I noticed that too."

Virgil leaned against the wall of lockers, arms crossed over his chest while Daisy twisted her locker combination and watched as the door swing open. She crouched and set her bag on the floor. After flipping through some of the folders within, she withdrew two and a heavy hardback book and shoved them inside, in turn grabbing two notebooks from the locker and putting them in her book bag. Frieda was doing the same in the locker next to Daisy's.

Daisy stood and swung the bag over her shoulder. She shut the locker door, and faced Virgil.

"You're really worried, then?" She asked quietly. She and Frieda started walking again and Virgil walked backwards ahead of them.

"Well, yeah!" Virgil said. "Look, he's been actin' weird for weeks, not sleeping, not cracking his unfunny jokes –"

"Not eating," Frieda supplied. She pushed Virgil out of the way of the water fountain, which protruded from the wall, saving him from what could have been a rather painful fall.

"Yeah!" Virgil agreed. "And that's, like, extra weird."

"You've got a point. But if he's not at school, you should see if he's at his house. Maybe he stayed home sick. He looks like he could use a sick day." Daisy suggested.

"What to do... what to do..." Virgil muttered under his breath. He stopped suddenly, and Frieda gave a grumble of annoyance as she almost ran into him.

"I know!" Virgil said brightly. A lightbulb had practically lit above his head. "I'll see if he's at his house! Maybe he stayed home sick!"

With a grin, Virgil dashed toward the school doors, accidentally knocking an innocent bystander over as he ran.

"Virgil!" Daisy cried, cupping her hands around her mouth to amplify her voice. "Virgil, school isn't over!"

"It's fine, girl, I'll make it up!" He called. He pushed open the door and hopped down the steps, bolting off in the direction of the Foley's.

Frieda and Daisy glanced at each other rolled their eyes.

"Stupid boys..."

Virgil stopped in front of Richie's house, a bit out of breath. He trotted up the steps and rung the doorbell, waiting only a minute before a kind-looking, redheaded woman appeared at the door. In one hand she held a tray on which there was a glass of water and two small pills, and her other hand was pressed against the open front door.

"Virgil," She said, surprised. "What are you doing here?"

"Hi, Mrs. Foley," He said quickly. "I was just wondering if Richie was home."

"Yes, he's home." Mrs. Foley answered, tucking a lock of red hair behind her ear. "Poor boy's got an awful virus. It's probably one of those twenty-four-hour bugs."

"Mm hmm?" Virgil said inattentively, leaning sideways and trying to see behind Richie's mother and into the house.

"Couldn't even go to school today, he's feeling so bad." Mrs. Foley continued, giving Virgil a strange look as he stood on his toes and peered past her. She paused, than narrowed her eyes. "Speaking of that, why aren't you at school right now, Virgil?"

Virgil froze, straightened up and let out a nervous laugh.

"Uh, early release?" He offered, rubbing the back of his neck. The older woman looked skeptical, so he hastily changed the subject. "May I come in?"

"Well, alright," Mrs. Foley said, still looking a bit unconvinced. "But make it quick."

Virgil punched the air in triumph.

"Thanks, Mrs. F.," He grinned. "And here, since I'm goin' that way I'll take his meds." He deftly lifted the tray from Mrs. Foley's hands and made his way to Richie's room. He balanced the tray with one hand and knocked with the other. There was a pause, and then a faint voice from the other side called weakly, -

"Venido adentro."

Virgil raised his eyebrows, but opened the door and walked in. Richie was lying on his bed, dressed in the baggy white shirt he always wore under his hoodie and some atrociously bright plaid pajama pants, a gag gift from Virgil two Christmas's ago that he'd never thought his best friend would actually wear. His face was ashen and his lips were blue, and a light sheen of sweat glistened across his skin. Under his glasses, his eyes were red and the purple circles hadn't left. Richie, never one to turn down food, hadn't ever been thin, but he'd been in shape; now, however, Virgil noticed just how much weight his friend had lost. Richie was bony now, and where the neckline of his shirt dipped, his collarbone was visible, pronounced more than ever. When he saw who was at the door, he gave a tired but happy grin and sat up, only to groan and sway dizzily before falling back onto the pillows.

"Richie!" Virgil cried in panic, hurriedly setting the glass of water and the aspirin on Richie's desk and hopping into the desk chair. He half pulled, half wheeled himself over to the bed. "Rich, what happened?"

"Dunno," He responded with a weak shrug. "Apenas... un dolor de cabeza mayor y mayor, bro."

Virgil raised his eyebrows. Richie didn't seem to realize he'd spoken another language.

"Man, I have no idea what you just said."

Richie frowned, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose.

"Juste un commandant, un mal de tête majeur, un copain."

"Wait… What!" Virgil said in alarm, his voice an octave higher than usual. "Dude, are you speaking in French? C'mon, I hardly passed English last semester, you expect me to know foreign languages?"

Richie's eyes widened to almost comical proportions, and he cleared his throat twice.

"I said, 'Just a major, major headache, bro.'" Richie said slowly. His eyes lit up. "Hey! English! All right!"

"Uh, yeah…" Virgil said. "About that…"

"I don't know," Richie said helplessly. He glanced at Virgil. "It's been happening all the time… and the headaches… those suck... and sometimes I'll forget what I'm doing…"

"Rich, something's really wrong with you. You need to get to a doctor, right now." Virgil said, giving his friend another once-over.

"No!" Richie exclaimed, sounding panicked. His eyes shifted from the door to the window to the balcony, as if looking to escape. "No, V, no. I don't need a doctor, I'll be fine, I'll – "

"Whoa, man, chill. Just chill," Virgil soothed, startled by Richie's reaction. "It's okay, it's okay." As Richie seemed to calm a bit, Virgil twisted the chair around and pushed with his legs on the floor, propelling the chair and himself to the desk, where he grabbed the water and aspirin and brought them over to Richie. The blonde glanced at the medicine and then at Virgil.

"I don't need medicine."

Virgil blanched.

"Dude, if anyone in the world needs medicine, it's you."

Richie resolutely shook his head.

"No. I don't need it."

"Richie…" Virgil began warningly, brandishing the glass of water. Richie looked away.

"V, I don't need it, really, I'll be fine. I just need some sleep and –"

"Richie." Virgil interrupted. Richie looked up at him hesitantly. "Shut up and take the freaking pills."

"I'm not that sick!"

Richie nearly fell off the bed in surprise as Virgil lunged out of the chair with his hand outstretched toward him. Realizing what his friend was trying to do, he scrambled backward, out of reach. Virgil climbed on the bed in pursuit, making Richie move even farther away. Richie threw off the covers and nearly bolted out of bed, only to sway before making it two steps. When he stumbled to the balcony door, Virgil took his chance and tackled him, making him fall flat on his face.
Virgil promptly sat down on his back.

"Stop it, V! Get off!" Richie yelled angrily into the carpet. Virgil pressed the back of his hand against Richie's forehead. He was burning up. Virgil frowned.

"Now, Richard," He began in an imperial voice, purposely using Richie's full first name. "As your best friend –" Here Richie muttered some very offensive words that Virgil wisely did not respond to – " – I take it upon myself to look after your welfare. And, be that as it may, when I see you clearly suffering –" Richie growled something along the lines of, "I'll show you suffering," " – I must do everything in my power to make you better. Now, take the stupid meds and be unsick before I have to force you to."

"Will you just get off me?" Richie said in an exasperated voice, still a bit muffled. "You're making my stomach hurt."

Virgil stared at the back of Richie's head.

"I'm sitting on your back." He said pointedly.

"And you're heavier than Shamu. Just get up!" Richie added unhappily. Virgil stood, offering Richie his hand. Richie, in an act of defiance, didn't take it, but ended up needing help anyway, which greatly took away from his defiance and made him look rather pathetic. Virgil helped him over to the bed. Richie glared over his glasses at Virgil (who merely gave a satisfied smirk in response) before tossing the pills in his mouth and downing them with a large gulp of water.

"So," Virgil said after a moment of silence. "What exactly is wrong with you?"

Richie frowned. He was still looking bad; he was pale and weak and still a bit sweaty and hot, general symptoms of fever. And then there was the thundering headache. But it wasn't just a fever – there was something wrong, something very wrong. It was a deep sense of foreboding that throbbed in tune with his pulse, and Richie didn't like it. The very thought of doctors trying to figure out what was wrong scared him, though he didn't know why. He tried to put it into words so that Virgil could understand; there was something bad happening, something wrong… but he couldn't place it.

Virgil was skeptical.

"Rich, I think what you need is rest and some time to recoup. If you need me just hit me up on the Shock Vox, you got it? I better head home or Pops'll have a cow."

Virgil stood up and headed to the door, but Richie's voice stopped him.

"Hey, Virgil?" He called tentatively.

Virgil turned. "Yeah, man?"

"Thanks," Richie said sincerely. "I mean, for, you know, stopping by."

Virgil grinned.

"No prob. That's what friends are for, right?"

Richie gave a weak laugh, and Virgil smiled before shutting the door behind him.

Hours after Virgil left, Richie had to admit that he was feeling a little better. Deciding he needed some fresh air, he pulled off his covers an swung his legs to the edge of the bed. With a deep breath, he stood and shakily made his way to the balcony, shoving open the door and leaning heavily on the railing.

He stared out at the night sky, gaze locked on the stars that littered it. The streetlights were glowing and cars zipped past on the street below. He closed his eyes, relaxing a bit as the cool, refreshing night air blew around him.

So it was no surprise that he was shocked to say the least when his world exploded in pain.

His grip on the railing failed and he sunk to his knees, holding his head in his hands. He desperately tried to move back inside, to reach his computer desk and pull open the drawer that held his Shock Vox, but another wave of pain engulfed him and he doubled over. The last thing he saw was a burst of brilliant white light and then he knew no more…

Author's Note: Please review. And check out the forum. It's definately worth it. Many debates and discussions go on there and it's very fun. :-)