Author's Note: Hello to you, my dear readers. In case you haven't noticed, college has taken its toll on my free time (as in, I no longer have free time). But at last, finals have been conquered and I can do a bit of writing and editing. This is a short story I wrote for a prompt/game during my family's Thanksgiving gathering. The rules were to pick six characters, put them in a dangerous situation, and then roll a dice to find out which one to kill off. You do this until only one of them is left. Since there are six Avengers, I chose them and did as best I could with what the Dice of Doom declared. Though of course this is a tragic story, I hope you like it!

. . .

The HYDRA base was far more heavily guarded than any of the intel had even suggested. In fact, as Tony flew above one of many machine guns hidden in the vicinity, he wondered if this had been an ambush from the beginning. Still, the Avengers should be a match for any amount of guards or bullets.

"Stark, what's it look like from above?" Steve's voice came in through the earpiece.

"The place is crawling with operatives," Tony answered. "There's more weapons placed in the area than there are skeletons in Romanoff's closet."

"I heard that, Stark," Natasha cut in, her tone unmistakably irritated.

"Should we go back to the Quinjet and rethink our approach?" Steve asked, ignoring the joke.

"I don't know," Tony said. "The agents should be easy enough to handle. What bothers me is our destination itself. J.A.R.V.I.S. is detecting a pretty significant power source in the main building ahead. I'm not sure if—"

A loud explosion cut off Stark's attempt to speak. Even though he was in the air, a massive shock wave from the blast slammed into Tony's suit, sending him crashing through the trees to the forest floor in a disoriented heap. For a brief moment he was stunned, but then he quickly stood and tried to make sense of the situation, not understanding the information his computers were giving him.

"Cap, Cap, do you copy?" he yelled desperately.

"The Hulk is down," Steve reported after a pause, his voice quiet and broken in disbelief.

"What?" Tony asked as the impossibility hit his mind with as much force as the explosion.

"The Hulk is down," Rogers repeated, regaining a bit of his command on emotion. "Some massive blast of energy. I don't know where it came from, but it was targeting him. Stark, we need you here now; the HYDRA operatives are converging on our position."

Tony needed no further encouragement. His thrusters burst to life as he sped in the direction of his team. He couldn't even see Banner's body when he arrived at the scene; there was only a massive, smoldering crater, the trees around it charred and black. The remaining Avengers were standing nearby with varying looks of shock.

"We will figure this out soon," Stark promised as his feet alighted on the ground. "But right now, we need to focus."

"Look out!" Barton called just before gunfire opened from the team's right. It was immediately returned with blasts, lightning, bullets, and arrows. The HYDRA agents soon retreated, but not before another attack started from the opposite direction.

As the Avengers faced the second threat, Hawkeye cried out in pain and fell to his knees, blood seeping from two wounds in his chest. Steve quickly turned his attention to Barton's situation and spotted the offending parties, their weapons still at the ready. He sent his shield flying into some of the nearby foliage, putting the previously-hidden HYDRA operatives out of action. But that could not undo the damage done.

"Clint!" Natasha called, running to his side. His hand gripped hers, pain and sorrow glazing over his eyes before his body went limp.

"Sir," J.A.R.V.I.S.' technical voice came into Tony's helmet. "My sensors are detecting another bout of energy from the base. I'm concerned that your position is being tracked."

"Stark, if that device is seeking to destroy you, you should not remain in the battle," Thor commanded in his lordly voice, sending his hammer into the shooting assailants.

"Thor's right," Natasha agreed, standing from the body of her friend and beginning to return enemy fire. "We don't need to lose anyone else."

"I'm an Avenger," Tony insisted stubbornly. "And I'm going to avenge, not run away."

"Sir," J.A.R.V.I.S. again warned, "the energy level is growing concentrated on this location. If you stay and the blast occurs again, you could endanger the safety of anyone around you."

Tony gritted his teeth, hating the thought of leaving his companions. "I'm going after the base," he decided reluctantly. "At least I'll draw the beam or weapon or whatever it is away."

"Be careful, Stark," Cap called as Iron Man flew out of the clearing and off. "Thor," Steve said, keeping his head as Captain, "can you get me a bird's eye view on this area, within a quarter mile of here? We to know how many more are coming and where they're coming from."

"Yes," the thunder god affirmed, twirling his hammer in his hand before flying above the tree tops. Just as he vanished from sight, a massive explosion again shook the ground, coming from the sky several hundred yards away.

"Stark!" Rogers cried out above the static on his radio com. But there was nothing he could do, and no way Tony could have survived the detonation. They would be lucky if even one of them made it out.

"We've got to evacuate," Steve said in a defeated voice to Natasha. "We can't compete with that energy device without a plan or a least some knowledge of it; this is suicide."

She nodded, a tear streaking down her dirty cheek as she cast a glance at the fallen. "When Thor gets back with more intel, we'll choose the best route and fall back," Cap stated, readying his shield. "Stay close no matter what."

But no intel ever came. A third time the air was filled with the shock of a huge explosion which seemed to shake the earth's foundations. The two remaining Avengers didn't need any confirmation; they knew where it had occurred and what the target had been. They were the only two left.

"Run!" Steve yelled, pushing his last companion into the direction the team had come. It might be swarming with agents by now, but he couldn't think of another way. Natasha sent round after round into the crowd of operatives that kept close pursuit, never missing but never reducing the number. Cap used his shield to clear the path ahead as agents appeared to bar the way, but all things considered, the Avengers' progress was slow. He didn't think they would make it out.

His suspicion was more or less confirmed when Natasha stumbled beside him, collapsing to her hand of knees. A maroon stain appeared on her back, and she groaned but did not rise.

"Natasha!" Cap called in anguish, rushing over to her. She was still breathing, but only in ragged heaves.

There was no time for plans or counterattacks or even thinking anymore; the only able-bodied Avenger acted now on pure instinct. In one swift action, he scooped up Natasha in his arms and made a break for it. His enhanced speed, no longer encumbered by attempts to fight, brought him far past the agents who ran in vain after him. Bullets whipped past him, but by some miracle of Providence, none touched him.

The Captain ran for roughly ten minutes before he reached the Quinjet. He didn't know if the energy force which had killed his friends was now out of range or if it needed a more powerful target than just two more or less normal humans, but either way it hadn't shot him, and he was grateful for that. He finally entered the flying craft and set his fellow Avenger down as he rapidly programed the Quinjet to autopilot to a safe house. The second he had set the course, he abandoned the controls and rushed to his comrade.

"Natasha," he called to her, praying she was alive.

"Steve," she moaned, her eyes barely opening. "Can you…promise me something?"

"Tell me," he insisted, taking her shaking hand and squeezing it tightly.

"Don't let us be forgotten…" she stammered, blood threatening to seep out of her parted lips. "The Avengers. Don't let us be…forgotten."

"You have my word," Steve affirmed. "Your memory will change the world, I promise."

The assassin managed a weak but genuine smile before finally slipping away. Steve felt tears leak out of his eyes as he bent over her form and wept bitterly. He was overcome with grief for her, for his team that was now taken from the world. He shouldn't be alive; he should be dead with them. Yet here he was, alone.

But the Captain did not give into despair. He knew that his survival—his life—must be a gift, and he needed to treat it as such. The Avengers would be remembered if he had anything to say about it. With a sigh of defiant determination, Steve cast a look at his red-stained shield, the white star still shining beneath the carnage, and vowed in his heart to bring the Avenger's vision of the world to life, down to his final breath.

. . .

Thanks so much for reading; I would really appreciate some feedback from you! In my exile (I mean first college semester), I did manage* to write a few short fics, and I plan to edit and post them during the Christmas break. So stick around, especially if you're into Tolkien's stuff!

* By manage, I mean that my muse was so stubbornly insistent on writing that I put off homework and lost sleep to satisfy its craving. But I'm pretty sure the calling to write was along the lines of Irresistible Grace…so I think I can be excused. ;)