Serebii Forums' fan fiction club held a "Hoenn Gauntlet" challenge to celebrate the then-upcoming release of ORAS. I tried to write some stories for it! None of them are finished yet (although apparently neither were anyone else's, oops), but hopefully I'll be able to get through at least a few at some point. The challenges were all interesting, and dammit now that I've started writing a Western set in Hoenn of all places I need to see how it turns out!

This is currently technically the beginning of the story, although chances are this little snippet of scene will be moved further back after I make some tweaks to the outline.

Walking Rocks

Clouds of dust and sand always blew right into the engineer's face when he leaned out of the cab—just a fact of life when driving trains along Route 111, he supposed—but he found himself coughing more often than usual that evening as the 5:15 Mauve Station-Fallarbor Express barreled toward its destination. The old flygon-eye goggles that normally protected his vision from the wind and grit were wearing down, not quite sitting on his face as snugly as they used to, and now particles of sand were working underneath the lenses and blurring his vision.

"Well, it's been like this for a while, not that you'd've noticed what with bein' away and all," the fireman said, raising his voice over the roar of the engine and the crunch of his shovel as it bit into the pile of coal. "Lucky you, goin' all soft ridin' up and down Route 110 where it's still mostly flowers and clear blue skies, while the regular 111 crews have to chug their way through sandstorms what feel like they're gettin' worse every time. Gonna have to get used to it, s'way I see it."

The engineer pulled his head back inside the cab for a respite, however brief, and wedged his fingers underneath the goggles to wipe at his eyes. "I heard about the sandstorms, Sam," he grumbled. "Everyone's heard about 'em. All I'm sayin' is I never heard that they'd get this bad. Even with the ol' dragonfly-eyes I can't see a damn thing out there, and we're barely even into the desert proper yet."

There wasn't much to see, in all fairness. The Route 111 rail line shot straight as a fired bullet through the same flat, empty desert it always did, leading the train north toward the mountains until it finally bent west toward the Fallarbor station miles away. The only real reason the engineer had to look ahead on this stretch of track was to make sure nothing had wandered onto it, and the few wild pokémon that bothered braving the desert heat had long since learned to give the tracks and their roaring, thundering trains a wide berth. And if some unfortunate baltoy or cacnea did happen to blunder onto the ties, well... wasn't much that one of those could do to slow down the 5:15 Mauve Station-Fallarbor Express, was there?

Something slowed down the 5:15 Mauve Station-Fallarbor Express. Ground it right to a halt, in point of fact. The impact threw Sam and the engineer off their feet and into the cab's back wall as the locomotive plowed into a solid, unforgiving object. Metal crunched and screamed as the engine screeched to a standstill, then crunched some more as the trailing cars slammed into the coal tender and into one another in turn. The train had stopped, and judging by the awful clangor of twisting, buckling, crashing steel that was only just now dying down it wouldn't be starting again anytime soon.

The engineer struggled to his feet as fast as the pain would let him, his back on fire as though he'd hit the boiler instead of the rear wall. He limped his way over to the side of the cab with an oath and a groan, then poked his head out of the window to see if he could spot the obstruction. Wasn't easy what with the sand flying in all directions, but if he squinted through his dragonfly-eyes he could definitely make out a shape just ahead...

There, planted squarely on the tracks, its massive feet stomping dents into the rails and its arms and horns currently pulling free of a mangled cowcatcher, was the biggest aggron the engineer had ever seen.

And there, standing right next to the door he was leaning out of, was a second one.