The Machines tell you how you're going to die. It's rarely helpful...
This is a crossover between The Avengers and Machine of Death, a series of stories about a machine that can predict the manner of someone's death, described in more detail below. For more on this project see the Wikipedia entry for Machine of Death - unfortunately I can't link to it here.
My first thought on coming across the Machine of Death concept was to wonder how some of our favourite characters would meet their fates. I decided to start off with the Avengers - at some point I may try other fandoms. Needless to say there are few happy endings... This is probably going to be a one-off, unless I decide to do something similar for another fandom, so I'm marking it as complete for now. Warning, LOTS of major character death...
All characters belong to their creators, corporations of doom, etc. and not to me. Please don't sue...
In The Cards
Marcus L. Rowland
"Everybody dies." - Dead Like Me
The Machines have been around as long as anyone can remember. Nobody knows exactly how they work, all anyone can say is that they're never wrong. You put in money and let it take a drop of blood, it prints a card that tells you how you're going to die. Cryptically, and often misleadingly, like the guy who was told 'JACK-KNIFE,' spent years avoiding sharp objects, and was eventually mown down by a truck that jack-knifed and skidded after its brakes failed. Sometimes they're self-fulfilling prophecies, like the man whose card read 'BURIED ALIVE' and only took jobs in high-rise buildings, and was crushed when the World Trade Center collapsed.
Steve Rogers tests himself in 1934. The card reads 'HYDRA,' which means nothing to him at the time, apart from the mythical monster Hercules fought. He eventually forgets it. In 1944 he remembers the card as the bomber plummets into the Arctic, and isn't surprised. When he's thawed out in the 21st century he loses his handlers for a few hours, finds a Machine, and takes the test again. It still reads 'HYDRA,' his only warning when HYDRA eventually re-emerges from the shadows. He decides that he's content with his fate, if he can take HYDRA down with him.
(The toxin released by the microscopic invertebrate Hydra vulgaris is as deadly as cobra venom, or would be if hydra was the size of a cobra. In 2025 an obsessed biologist synthesizes a lethal dose, intending to use it to kill his rival Peter Parker, who he wrongly believes stole his research. Steve gets in the way, and dies before an antidote can be found.)
Agent Coulson's card read "TAHITI." He hasn't tested himself since he died, and won't let anyone talk him into it.
Natasha Romanoff doesn't want to know. Out of curiosity Nick Fury steals a few drops of her blood from SHIELD's medical lab and runs it through a Machine. The card reads 'SHOT,' he isn't even slightly surprised.
(In 2020 Fury's in Tokyo on the trail of a HYDRA assassin, another product of the Red Room, whose cover identity is a Russian track and field athlete. The fight takes them into the stadium, where she attacks him with javelins and the shot, a heavy iron ball. Fury kills her, but one of her blows crushes his larynx. A botched tracheotomy makes things worse, but essentially it's the damage from the shot that kills him. The Machines find the fate of their operator, not the blood source; the blood is just a conduit for their power.
Natasha lives a long and eventually happy life; she dies in her sleep.)
Tony Stark's card reads 'EQUIPMENT MALFUNCTION.' He isn't particularly surprised, he's spent decades risking his life with prototype machines; cars, planes, the Iron Man suits. He works hard to perfect them, make his machines stronger, faster, smarter, better, and reduce the risk of failure.
(After numerous upgrades DUM-E achieves full sentience and decides to seek payback for decades of abuse. He intends to scare Stark, not to do him harm, but the chainsaw attachment he's built isn't fully tested; as he revs it the chain breaks, flies across the lab, hits Stark, and severs an artery. Stark bleeds out before help arrives.)
Clint Barton's card reads 'PLANE.' He tries to avoid woodwork shops and learns to fly, to maximise his chances of survival if he's ever aboard an aircraft that's out of control, but SHIELD sends him on missions that take advantage of his skill, putting him in more danger of a crash. Eventually he decides to accept his fate - it's not like the machines are ever wrong - and take each day as it comes.
(Fuelled by global warming, violent storms sweep across Europe in the 2020s. Clint's holed up in SHIELD's safe-house in London when one of them hits; he's killed when a plane tree is swept up by the wind and crashes through the roof of the house.)
Thor won't take the test; there are already too many prophecies about his life. Although neither knows it, Loki agrees for once; he considers the machines to be one of the best jokes he's ever encountered, and wishes he'd thought of them for himself. Both suspect that if they took the test the other's name would be on the card.
Bruce Banner tries the test a dozen times. The cards always come back blank. He guesses that means he's going to die as the Hulk, and since there's no easy way to take a blood sample while he's the Hulk... Well, he can live without the information.
(Nothing can kill the Hulk. He grows in power and rage, eventually killing Galactus himself, and becomes a force of nature akin to a god. Long after Earth and Asgard are gone, and the human race is extinct, he still seeks an end... but it will never come.)