Rearden, Dagny, Ragnar, and Francisco rescue Galt from his torturers, and they fly back to the valley. Eddie Willers, after days of negotiation, has reopened the Taggart station in San Francisco and restored transcontinental service. He rides the Comet, attempting to return to New York, but it breaks down in Arizona, and he and the crew are unable to repair the engine. The crew and passengers desert the stranded Comet for a passing covered wagon. Eddie refuses to leave the train. He’ll get it moving or will die attempting to do so.
The looters’ regime finally collapses, and Galt gives word that the strikers will now return and rebuild the world.
The torture of John Galt is the looters’ last futile effort to save their system. They refuse to understand, though the evidence is all around them, that the mind requires freedom to think and create. They cling to their belief that force is the most effective method for dealing with people. Galt refuses to become economic czar because he recognizes that such a plan is hopeless. Economic production can be restored only when the innovative minds are free to act on their own: to invent and create new products, start their own companies, manufacture the goods, and make money by selling to customers on an open market. The looters, refusing to lift the stifling controls on the mind, have no chance to restore economic prosperity.
The fundamental conflict in this story is the mind versus brute force. The final resolution of the conflict holds true to its essence: Despite the looters’ attempts to enslave the mind through force, Galt emerges victorious in his commitment to his intellectual freedom. The mind is the power that moves the world. Any force working against the mind must, ultimately, collapse from its own ineptitude.
The looters’ system overcomes Eddie Willers before its final collapse. Train service, like all the other accomplishments of a technologically advanced society, is disintegrating. Society is reverting to covered wagons and candles. Eddie, committed to the mind and its achievements, refuses to abandon the train, but Eddie doesn’t understand enough engineering to repair the locomotive. He doesn’t share the intellectual abilities of Dagny, Rearden, or Galt. Therefore, his fate depends on the strikers. Will Dagny and Francisco find their friend in the vast desert? Or will Eddie perish in the wilderness? Clearly, he deserves to be in the valley, but will the valley’s residents succeed in rescuing him? Rand deliberately leaves Eddie’s situation unresolved. She shows that the fate of Eddie Willers — who represents every man at his moral best — is dependent on the fate of the great minds. When the geniuses are free to think and create, the common man flourishes. But when the great thinkers are stifled, the common man suffers. Dagny can only do her best in attempting to find her loyal friend amidst the violent chaos that the looters’ system has generated.