The directives out of Washington were coming fast and furious. Emergency measures were to be enacted. The Constitution was outmoded. No longer was Washington only permitted to regulate commerce with foreign nations, between states and with the Indian tribes, but was fully immersed in interfering with all commerce in the nation. New wage laws were enacted. The good of the masses was the only important goal and the use of fear in every statement uttered publicly by officials was like a paralyzing menthol to the minds of the masses.
Dagny had long since stopped reading the papers with their apocalypse mongering and corruption cajoling. This morning she stood and sipped her coffee in a stark white dress that just covered her breasts, revealing her white shoulders. On her, the color white looked noble. Not the false conferring of nobility that some would seek to embrace in the purity of white, but its starkness allowed the essence of her features to dominate. Her eyes shone with purpose and character and it was these that then colored her garment.
As she savored the smell of strong coffee wafting beneath her nose , she remembered her childhood and the unquestioning faith she had in the wisdom of all adults. It seemed so long ago and she could not help but wonder how she could ever have been so naive. Now she was daily being battered by those, who as a child, she would never have perceived as evil. Each day was lived almost as if in perdition - a punishment for her previous lack of perception.
Running a railroad, providing metal to the factories that bring progress and prosperity was now a battle. Each day brought some new directive, some bit of legislation that interfered and dictated how she could run her railroad. The "crisis" was growing and Washington was entertaining taking over her railroad entirely and nationalizing it - for the public good. That no one in DC knew anything about running a railroad did not concern the collectivists who were shrill in their demands for state control of all major industries.
The people she met in the streets looked helpless. They wore depression like a heavy yoke around their necks, the scent of fear pungently perfumed the air of the streets around them. When she met eyes with some passersby, she recognized underneath, still suppressed, a sense of hysteria - a disconcerting madness that she couldn't quite put her finger on. She was certain it was this hysteria which was used to manipulate the masses. Their desperation was a blank check for politicians to fill with any amount they wanted. Like a snake oil salesman pitching a woman with an ill child, reason was no longer part of the thinking process. Desperation closed the sale before it began.
Those who recognized what was happening were slowly being persecuted. It was small at first. Their motives were being questioned. They were being called selfish and uncaring. They were publicly ridiculed in papers and on the radio by faceless voices and words. The masses were being taught to hate those who objected to the new directives. They were being trained to believe these people were the ones responsible for the current crisis, and to overlook the mountain of evidence to the contrary.
Dagny set down her empty cup and looked out the window of her office. It was raining and the panes were streaked with rivulets of water buffeted by a strong wind. She touched the pane and it was cold. She enjoyed the contrast and yet there was something more. She realized it was what it represented. Men had built this skyscraper. They had shaped the glass and the structure to shield her from the elements. It was an accomplishment of mind over environment. As she rested her hand against the cold pane she realized it was man's triumph, man's industrious nature that she was celebrating.
It was this industriousness which she strove to defend and would not relent. Industrious men needed her railroad - and needed her to keep it running. The looters, moochers and collectivists could not be permitted to interfere in commerce and sacrifice progress - only to create a false sense of self-importance and quiet the many gnawing insecurities that followed them around like persistent spectres without precise shape but a constant disquieting presence.
Eddie Willers walked in to her office without knocking.
"Dagny...what are we going to do?"
"Didn't you read the special edition today?"
"A new directive has been passed. All banks, railroads, shippers and airlines are now state owned. Tomorrow a directive is being voted on which will take over farms, refineries and markets. Yesterday they nationalized all newspapers and radio stations."
Dagny was still and stunned. The weight of the news struck her like a physical blow. She realized her hand was now completely cold and she removed it from the pane. She was incredulous and yet simultaneously knew exactly how men could conspire to harm themselves - ignorance.
She didn't know when she had started sobbing only felt Eddie Willers arms around her, supporting her, lending his strength to her own. She realized too this was natural. Eddie Willers had always been there for her and was one of the few who understood the things she understood.
She stopped crying and gave Eddie a kiss. It was pure, like the white of her gown, and it said "thank you for always being here" better than any words she could have mustered or composed. Eddie held her for another moment and released her. Their eyes locked for a brief moment, but a brief moment was all that was necessary. Understanding was their reward.
She knew, as Eddie knew, she would fight this directive tooth and nail and join with others who would also be ready to fight for mankind.