PREVIOUSLY: Poindexter the Regulator warned Hank that Wesley Mouch was quietly filling all the jobs in Hank’s mills with “goons.”
Hank learns from the newspapers that his workers asked for a raise — but they asked the Unification Board and not him. And the Board turned them down. The newspaper articles breeze right past that fact and paint Hank as a villainous robber baron. He thinks the “lamestream media” is
counting on the public to forget legal technicalities under a barrage of stories implying that the government was the natural cause of all miseries suffered by its citizens.
Wait, excuse me, that’s a transcription error. What Ayn wrote reads:
counting on the public to forget legal technicalities under a barrage of stories implying that an employer was the natural cause of all miseries suffered by employees.
Sorry, wrong egregious generalization. Here I thought Ayn meant to satirize false media narratives from REAL life. My bad. Anyway,
FOX, er, the “fictional press” is using heated populist rhetoric that Hank grimly thinks might incite the gullible to violence.
Meanwhile Hank gets a notice in the mail that all of his assets have been frozen to pay for back taxes that he doesn’t actually owe. He starts getting calls from IRS agents apologizing for the mistake, just a technicality, the hold will be lifted soon we promise etc. The highest-ranking guy Hank speaks to cajoles him into a friendly off-the-record meeting with the top power-brokers at State, just like the one Dagny had to attend last chapter. Hank takes all of these events in with keen diffidence, certain this is all some shell game to fuck with him but uncertain as to what for.
NEXT! Hank gets a call from his mom Lucille, pitifully asking him to meet with her and brother Buster. He relents and visits his house for the first time in months. Lillian is also there, which pisses him off, but he sits down and hears their case, the gist of which is that they’re terrified Hank will disappear like the others. They tell him they know they’ve been ungrateful and cruel and wrong, and please please will you forgive us?
But Hank is past caring. He rolls his eyes at them and tells them it’s too late. They didn’t respect him when it could’ve made a difference, and they’re only coming around now out of desperation. They haven’t earned forgiveness, they’re still just trying to dilute his awesomeness with their patheticness.
As he moves to leave, Buster tells him he can’t disappear without money and Hank realizes that’s the purpose of the tax freeze. Then, in a last desperate play, Lillian vindictively tell him that before they divorced she fucked Jim Taggart, who she doesn’t even like, so there. Hank is nonplussed. “Oookay… what are you telling me for?” With that parting remark he sees her soul die inside and her face crumple in defeat. She has degraded only herself, and now she realizes it. Hank exits.
NEXT! Hank is in New York for his meeting with Mouch, Taggart, Ferris, all the usual shitbags. They’re very unctuous, “Hank Hank, come in, we love your input, we should hang out more often!” He’s as bored with this schtick as I am. They run a Steel Unification Plan by him and he’s like “Makes no sense, everyone will go broke.” They do their best to ignore that and insist they must “equalize the sacrifice.” Hank is about done here, thank you.
Jim, like Lillian before him, makes a last ditch effort to keep Hank’s attention, but left with no rational argument defending the plan, he simply says he’s sure Hank will do something. This makes Hank realize (for like the sixth time) that their whole plan is to leave all the work to him and then consume all the value he creates. Jesus this chapter is nearly as repetitive as the last one.
Hank’s (and our) time thoroughly wasted, he storms off and drives back to the mills, only to see upon approach that while he was diverted the gang of goons Mouch had been slipping into his labor force has started a riot at the plant.
Before he reaches the mob at the gates Hank fishtails to a stop. Down a slope on the side of the road he sees a discarded body and rushes down to it. It’s Poindexter!
Poindexter explains he was shot for refusing to help the rioters. The riot itself has been staged so that Mouch has an excuse to pass the Plan he pitched to Hank even if Hank won’t sign off. And sure, he’s coughing blood and dying now, but he feels good about himself for the first time ever because he finally stood up for something. Hank makes him promise to use that newfound will power to keep breathing just a little bit longer, until Hank can find him a doctor. Nevertheless, as Hank picks him up and scales the hill back to his car, poor Poindexter expires in his arms.
Hank kisses his forehead and is suddenly overwhelmed with “a desire to kill.” Not the thugs who shot Poindexter, or the bureaucrats who hired the thugs. No, he wants to murder all of the nation’s college professors, just as a class of people, for teaching Poindexter the wrong values. He thinks Poindexter’s mother should have poisoned him as a child rather than send him off to higher education. Once again let me emphasize that I am not embellishing here. I just… there are no words.
PAUSE. Well, a few words. Seriously?? This is the sort of stuff you’d find in a serial killer’s notebooks after he was caught and be like, “Oh, I get it now.” Just, holy shit.
PLAY. Hank generously tempers his bloodlust for… teachers… by thinking how there were once good educators like Hugh Akston, the World’s Greatest Philosopher, who now lives in Galt’s Gulch and who, last time we saw him, was similarly extolling the satisfaction he’d feel if he murdered his peers. What a coincidence! A disturbing, disturbing coincidence…
Hank, in his blinding fury, strides right into the mob at the entrance to the mills. He sees that the workers loyal to him have somehow armed themselves and mostly quelled the rioting on the inside. Somebody on the roof is shooting down at the rabble around the gates with a semi-automatic in each hand. Hank admires his competent, efficient gunmanship. Yes, nothing more inspiring than a man on a rooftop firing indiscriminately into a crowd of people, am I right? Bashar Assad gets it.
Okay to be fair, in this particular case the mob is state-sponsored and here to do innocent people harm — and to prove that, a couple of the rioting thugs advance on Hank and beat him about the head, as thugs are wont to do. As he passes out he sees the gunman leap down from the roof, blow the thugs’ heads clean off, and carry him away.
Some time later Hank wakes up in his office. The staff doctor and superintendent are there taking care of him. They tell him the mills have been secured. The gunman was a newly-promoted foreman who smuggled in the arms so they could protect themselves, and no doubt he saved a lot of lives. He is waiting outside to see Hank.
The doctor and superintendent leave, and in comes the new hire: it’s Francisco! He’s been slumming it on the bottom rung of Hank’s ladder since he disappeared, just like Galt has over at Dagny’s. Frankie and Hank don’t fuck in the mud like Galt and Dags did, but you can tell they’d both be down if someone suggested it. It’s okay guys, your insane authorial God is cool with the socially liberal stuff.
Anyway they stare deeply into each other’s eyes and it’s pretty obvious that Hank is finally ready to leave the world behind for Francisco’s warm embrace and the pastoral beauty of Galt’s Gulch. Without further hesitation, they do just that.