1:4 The Immovable Movers, “Attack of the Strawmen”

PREVIOUSLY: Jim Taggart and Orren Boyle agreed to rig the economy, but didn’t say so out loud. Dagny and Eddie gazed forlornly into the middle distance.

Dagny has just returned from an engine factory, where the boss-man spewed bullshit at her for two hours about how his plant’s delays are definitely not his fault. As soon as she walks into her office Eddie tells her their best contractor has quit his job and disappeared, mysteriously, forever, just like that middle manager Kellogg. It’s almost as if something fishy is going on.

The bad news sends Dagny right back out of the office to walk her dismay off amid the Manhattan streets. But she only sees signs of a crass and hollow culture all around her. She hears someone playing music with ‘no melody, no harmony, no rhythm,’ so… not music, then. Or possibly not a sound at all. Anyway, ‘if music was emotion and emotion came from thought, then this was the scream of chaos,’ she reflects. And since she has already botched the definition of music, and the premise that emotion comes from thought is arguable at best, I think ‘the scream of chaos’  might be a misnomer in this case but probably describes someone’s art… Ayn.

No Central Park view? Dagny you’re practically a hobo. 

So our intrepid heroine wraps up this Travis Bickle homage and goes home to her high-rise apartment with floor-to-ceiling windows. She puts on a little Halley song and wonders why her favorite musician had to go and quit and disappear, mysteriously, forever, eight years ago. Jesus Dagny, put two and two together. Collapsing on the couch with a sigh, her eyes fall on a newspaper, and the face of that no-good lothario Francisco D’Anconia is staring at her from the front page. Turns out he’s in town. Dagny just cannot catch a break!

Dagny’s brother, meanwhile, is similarly forlorn in his apartment. Some high-society chippy in the Paris Hilton mold is brushing her teeth and picking her wedgies, prattling on from the bathroom while Jim just slumps over in a chair like a miserable prick. He hadn’t even wanted to fuck this girl, it just seemed like the thing to do, and now he feels crummy. She wants Jim to take her out for Armenian food like a gentleman, but he refuses because of a very important board meeting. And just then he gets a phone call from his panicked Mexican lobbyist. You’ll never believe this: they’ve nationalized the San Sebastian railroad and mines.

Now that this plot ‘twist’ has finally happened, the ‘action’ speeds up.

Board meeting! Jim assuages the directors’ fears. Don’t you know, he had the marvelous foresight to move all their resources out of Mexico and leave only one shitty old train running once a day. Definitely him. Not Dagny. And he will make sure a couple of underlings take the fall anyway. The board polishes their monocles and mumbles their relief.

Jim seems less confident when he retreats to his office to hang with Orren Boyle afterwards. Orren reassures him that Francisco D’Anconia has lost a cool $15 mil of his own money in this debacle, and therefore will help them find a way to recoup their losses too. But at that very moment Jim’s secretary comes in and informs them Francisco has refused to take their calls, and will never take them again, because he finds them boring. Frank, if you’re the first character with a sense of humor I think we’re gonna get along real well.

Next scene! The National Alliance of Railroads is voting on a measure that would create regional monopolies, ensuring national coverage in these times of energy shortfall. Just as Orren and Jim planned, Taggart Transcontinental will now have the Colorado oil fields all to itself. But nobody says that part out loud; they all vote yes out of peer pressure. Because it’s for the greater good, you see. Everybody immediately shuffles out in shame while Dan Conway, the man who ran the up-and-coming Phoenix Durango railroad in Colorado, is left alone, shocked that his life’s work has just been ruined by committee.

Next scene! Dagny’s working; Jim busts in to gloat. “Guess what, bitch? I just saved our business through sleazebag politicking. Who’s ya boss now?” Dagny is furious, but rather than give Jim the satisfaction, she up and leaves without a word.

Next scene! Dagny visits Conway to encourage him to reject the NAR’s ruling. He is totally disillusioned with humanity now and says he’s going to move to Arizona and go fishing. Good luck with that, buddy. It’s a desert. Dagny tells Conway how much she looked forward to kicking his ass in Colorado, but not like this. Never like this. He gives her a pitiful smile. “I know, Dags. I know.”

Next scene! Dagny hangs up her phone having just scheduled a meeting with Hank Rearden. Colorado oil magnate Ellis Wyatt busts into her office. “Listen, we have to work together now, even though this is bullshit, so I want you to know I don’t fuck around. And if you fuck around, I will fuck you up. You feel me?” Dagny really wants to tell him how much she hates this new arrangement too, but instead she goes “Yes, sir, I feel you,” so as not to make excuses.

Last scene! Dagny is having her meeting with Hank Rearden, in his personal office. She needs her Rearden Metal order expedited so it’ll be ready when the Phoenix shuts down. He tells her he’s gonna hose her on the price hike, which gets Dagny kinda hot. She says that’s fine because she knows he needs her to prove his new invention’s potential to the world, which gets Hank hot. They flirtatiously congratulate each other for being such good capitalists, then deride Dagny’s brother and his ilk as ‘demented’ ‘looters’ and ‘moochers.’

Mr. Rearden, your stock is rising.

To lift their spirits in the face of this dangerous industrial cartel, they stand by the window and watch Hank’s first batch of alloyed rails being loaded onto a Taggart train in the distance. Oh yeah Hank, you like putting the rails to that Taggart train all right. Don’t deny it.

I’m pretty sure that’s his internal monologue, but externally he just boasts about the endless uses of his Metal, including airplanes that are lighter by several orders of magnitude and infrastructure with triple the life span. Which of course means way less jet fuel and increased energy efficiency, but they certainly don’t say that part out loud because these two hate to think there might be social benefits to their entrepreneurial largesse.

Which puts our no-nonsense workaholic protagonists on the same page, the same line even, and the subject is down and dirty hardcore business talk. So in this moment their loins are inevitably a’quiver. Their eyes meet, and Dagny gets her handjob grip primed to go, but Hank blanches and guiltily calls the two of them selfish. He’s probably thinking he shouldn’t cheat on his castrating wife, and Dagny is put out that she won’t get to put out, but this meek version of Hank isn’t as hot anyway, so they just go back to staring out the window at the highly phallic railroad tracks that are, so far, the only fruits of their labor.

NEXT: Chapter 5, The Climax of the D’Anconias — Enter the Charming Rogue

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