PREVIOUSLY: The American government has finally, fully converted to centralized economic control. Dagny resigned in protest and retired to a remote cabin in the woods. In her absence, willful negligence at the railroad company caused a terrible humanitarian disaster.
Our heroine is living off the land, practicing strict self-discipline, trying not to think about the dying world. She’s almost gone hippie on us, contemplating how nature operates in circles while mankind operates in lines. It sounds like stoned dorm room talk.
As she chops wood or whatever, Dagny’s mind wanders to her longing for Hank, and the payment she owes to Q (the physicist reverse-engineering the ion drive for her). Oh yeah, the ion drive! What the hell is she going to do with it now? But nevermind, because all of a sudden Francisco shows up.
She watches his car approach her hill, and watches as he climbs the hill, and all the while he’s whistling Halley’s 5th Concerto (callback!). It’s like something out of a dream. How did he find her? When he reaches her, they stop pussy-footing around and totally make out. Sweeet.
Frankie is super-psyched that Dagny has finally quit and gone off-the-grid, and he came as soon as he knew where she was — though he won’t say how he found out. Dagny laments the hurt and withdrawal she feels for abandoning her former life (read as, “her job”) and yet acknowledges that she couldn’t continue working there with incompetent moral vampires as her bosses. Francisco is like “Damn straight.”
He reminds her of the last night they spent together as lovers, twelve years ago, when she cradled him in her arms while he had a nervous breakdown. Turns out, that was the night he committed to his secret plan to take down industrial civilization from the inside.
You see, Francisco explains, D’Anconia Copper is so old, so wealthy, that if he were to quit, all the no-good “vulture capitalists” could still live off his company’s largesse for generations. So, slowly, over the past decade, he has carefully sabotaged himself, hobbling the world economy as a last desperate measure to halt the planet’s mindless overconsumption.
Dagny understands, realizes why Frankie could never have told her while she still demonstrated any loyalty to society and “the system” in general. Still, she admits, it’s a shockingly ballsy move.
Francisco knows. When he made the choice to sacrifice his true love and his personal passion to
become Batman fight the power, it was before the climate and energy crisis was obvious, before communism had taken over most of the globe… she would have thought him a crazy person. It was the hardest decision of his life.
Dagny still feels shitty about leaving the world to the vampires and the consumer zombies, though. Francisco reassures her that there’s nothing she can do to stem the tide. At least, not by herself…
But before Francisco can explain his conspiracy further, a news bulletin comes twittering from the radio in Francisco’s car, announcing the Taggart Transcon tunnel disaster. Hundreds dead, the national rail system in complete disarray. In a fit of gross incompetence, an Army munitions train was sent into the tunnel after the poisoned flagship one, and they collided, destroying the tunnel completely.
And before Frankie can stop her, Dagny sprints down the hill and towards her car, compelled to return to society and save her life’s work.
Cut to NYC, Taggart Terminal. That rat bastard Jim is sealed up in his office, an unsigned resignation letter on his desk like a loaded gun. He is trying very hard not to think about the situation around him, block out the reality of this failure and his inevitable public shaming. He hates everything. Literally.
But most specifically he hates Dagny, and suddenly races to the VP office, assaulting Eddie Willers and demanding to know where she went when she quit. This is all her fault, for quitting!
Eddie keeps his cool, admits that he knows and that he will not tell Jim under any circumstances, because Jim is an asshole. Eddie’s glad Dagny left and he hopes she doesn’t come back. Yesss, Eddie’s testicles are finally descending!
Except this is Dagny’s cue to storm back into the office, totally undermining Eddie’s stand. She immediately ropes Eddie into her corner suite where they can take charge and get the nation’s core infrastructure back online.
Jim, still in the midst of a nervous breakdown of his own, and clearly getting no attention from the useful people, flees back to his office to destroy the resignation letter and ponder the impotent void of his personality.
Then Dagny and Eddie’s cram session is interrupted by a phone call from Wesley Mouch, who has already heard of her return from “vacation,” and lugubriously promises her any legal waivers she may need, despite all the laws she broke by quitting. She tells him to fuck off forever and send any further messages through his secretary.
While she’s at the phone, she calls Hank and they commiserate about how they’re gluttons for punishment, making sure the world keeps spinning when the world has gotten as crappy as all this. They agree to meet later that night for a therapeutic dose of kinky fuckery.
And now take everything that just happened in this chapter and make all the philosophical points sound about ten times douchier, and that’ll be roughly like how Ayn wrote it.