PREVIOUSLY: State Science released a politically motivated report that cast doubt on R-Metal, endangering Dagny’s vision of energy-efficient high-speed railroads. She appealed directly to the head of State Science, but the once-great man has soured into a timid and complacent figure, serving only as a cautionary tale.
Now that Rearden’s alloy has become a political hot potato, the large orders of it on Taggart Transcontinental’s books are causing the railroad’s stock to plummet. The construction of the Colorado line is suspended. Jim’s gone off the grid in a panic, but Dagny tracks him down at the old family estate, where he’s hiding among the mothballs.
There she informs him that she has a plan. She’s going to resign and form an independent company, which will buy the Colorado track from Taggart. Once the unfinished R-Metal project is off Taggart’s ledger the stock will rebound. Meanwhile Dagny will be free to pursue her vision unencumbered. Once her track proves successful, she’ll fold the company back into Taggart and triumphantly resume her post.
Jim loves the idea but makes sure to extract guarantees that he will be completely shielded from responsibility or risk. And who will run things while she’s gone? Well, Eddie Willers of course. He knows the biz inside and out. Yay, dignity for Eddie! And the name of Dagny’s indie venture? Dagny smiles. “The John Galt Line.”
That spooks Jim. The phrase connotes despair! Isn’t that some no-good hoodoo? Dagny scoffs. “Who is he, Voldemort? I’ll throw the name in everyone’s face. Fuck despair. Fuck John Galt. And fuck everything he stands for.” Gauntlet, thrown.
Next! Dagny is pitching Francisco on the role of angel investor. He’s never been in her office before and she guilts him about how seeing it would’ve meant a lot to him once upon a time. He knows what she’s going to ask, and asks her not to. But she has no choice. She knows that R-Metal infrastructure is the best investment opportunity in over a century. And yet it seems as if that’s the very reason nobody will buy into it. “Isn’t that fucking crazy?” she demands to know.
Frankie seems unusually stressed out and again insists Dagny not ask for his help. She patiently explains that even if he does live a ‘depraved’ life, they still speak the same language, and he apparently doesn’t care about money anymore, so… if there’s even a little of the old Frisco in him, she’ll beg for it if she has to. The loan, I mean. Always with the kinky subtext this one.
Francisco is overcome. He takes her hand and kisses it. He calls her ‘my love.’ Then he says he won’t do it, and won’t explain himself. Dagny is getting real tired of Frankie’s contradictory attitudes, but he suggests that there’s no such thing as a contradiction, only faulty logic.
Thus he leaves, wishing her luck on the Rio Norte line, but she responds to his back that it’s called the John Galt Line now and he pulls a double-take at the door. “Whaaaat the fuck? Why?”
She repeats her speech about how she’s tired of everyone wallowing in humanity’s impending doom, so she’s going to turn the name John Galt into a symbol of a bright future instead. ‘I’m going to build a railroad for him. … Let him come claim it!’
Francisco smiles ruefully. ‘He will.’
Next scene! Dagny is in Rearden’s office renewing her contracts under the new John Galt title. Despite Francisco’s obstinacy, she’s scraped the venture capital together from Ellis Wyatt and the other Colorado new money. Rearden buys in for a million bucks on the spot. Look at all these cold-hearted business types pooling their resources to improve the community! That’s heartwarming shit right there. The dynamic duo huddles over the blueprints for their R-Metal bridge, but neither of them can stop thinking about how badly they want to fuck each other. Oh well.
Last scene. Rearden’s office again, but some days later. His mother barges in demanding a meeting. Brother Buster is in a bad way, she says, because relying on Hank’s charity has left him feeling insecure and worthless. So obviously Hank should give Buster a job. Yet Hank tells her off because that would be an even shittier form of charity and a drain on his business to boot. If Buster wants to improve himself, he can go right ahead and do it. No more hand-outs. Mumsy accuses Hank of being callous and selfish. ‘Virtue,’ she claims, ‘is the giving of the undeserved.’ He recoils in horror at that sentiment and kicks her right out. Aware that his family relations are curdling, but with no clue what to do, Rearden just represses the shit out of it.
To that end his next meeting wanders in, a humble factory owner from Minnesota. This guy’s steel supplier was bought out by Orren Boyle and now he can’t get his orders filled in time to keep his business afloat. He wants to cut a deal with Hank even though Hank’s mills are working full time on R-Metal. Hank respects the guy’s no-nonsense approach but is on the fence about the sale.
That’s when Hank’s secretary comes in and announces that Congress just passed the dreaded Equal Opportunity Bill. All of Rearden’s mineral stockpiles will be frozen and redistributed. Wesley Mouch’s lobbying firm cannot be reached. They are fucked.
The factory owner cries “Oh God, no!” and seriously, the bystanders in this book need to chill out on the histrionics. Rearden defiantly tells the guy he’s going to get his emergency steel order after all, because Rearden intends to grind out as much as he can before the feds come down on him.
But at the end of the night, when Hank is all alone at his desk, he is paralyzed by a crushing hopelessness. His success is practically the only thing keeping the country from economic collapse and now his hands are being tied by the very people his work could sustain. “Isn’t that fucking crazy?” he demands to know. But as furious as the injustice makes him,
‘There are things one must not contemplate, he thought. There is an obscenity of evil which contaminates the observer.’
Spooky. So he focuses on the positive: how he’ll lead his employees and clients through this like a Boss. He only wishes he had a confidante of his own, an equal, somebody to lean on. And for whatever reason, Francisco is the first name that pops into his head. But Hank hates Frankie on principle, doesn’t he? Damn, he thinks, I must really need some sleep.
Then, just as he begins dozing off to dreams of his time as an up-and-comer, inspiration strikes. Like a man possessed he hastily draws a new schematic that will allow Dagny to finish the John Galt bridge faster and cheaper and with less material. There’s no time to lose! He calls her in a creative fit and they spend all night on the phone brainstorming plans to save the world from itself. But, you know, selfishly.
NEXT: Chapter 8 The John Galt Line, “Consummate Professionals”