A secondary (and yet important) character in SCHADENFREUDE, Phillip N. Eckhard, better known as Eck, is there to entice and inform you in equal measure since he's the hottest newscaster of Meridian.
Here's how he encountered Droser Sundew (one of the main characters of SCHADENFREUDE) for the first time.
The meeting never happened. The guy wasn’t where he was supposed to be, probably spooked by all the commotion at the plaza. Droser neared his building in the east side of Pontus almost two hours later thanks to the pandemonium throughout the city. The last thing Droser expected to encounter was Phillip N. Eckhart interviewing people on his stoop with two recording devices floating around him and covering his every move. The street lights seemed spotlights trained on Eck and his acolytes.
Droser had to do a double-take, not just because, even surrounded by people debating between stress, frustration, and attraction, Eck’s aura remained that of a grounded and self-assured person, but because it had that golden serpent like the auras of Star, Bunny, and the bank teller. Whatever it meant, these four seemingly completely different people shared something in common.
Were they all mutations? Nah, Antha had said there was something preternatural in Star. Were they all related somehow?
Boundaries’ fearmongers approached from the left sidewalk in their white robes and green cords, waving their blood-red signs and chanting some religious nonsense. Their auras trembled with conviction and despair, and they weren’t wrong, the thing they feared the most was a reality. Still, this group had something Droser hadn’t seen before. They all had the same inscription on their cardboard signs: REPENT FOR THE END IS AT HAND. Droser couldn’t shake the feeling he had read that somewhere before. They also had ashes covering their faces. Talk about outré displays.
Anyone would think that when these two groups converged it would become a wailing festival, but Droser saw how the tides veered in a different direction for Eck’s admirers. Soon anger shone dangerously, and they started to boo the white robes. The recording devices moved to record both groups, and Droser sidestepped to avoid the inevitable confrontation. Part of him wanted to witness the morons pummeling each other, but he wanted more to call Orfeo again until the stubborn asshole answered. He needed privacy for that.
Surreptitiously, Droser reached the lobby’s entrance, but against his instincts he turned to look at the unfolding melee (it was too much of a temptation), and caught Eck’s eyes as someone, taking advantage of the chaos, ripped his cotton candy pink shirt apart, pulling him into the fracas. Signs swung, punches flew, and Eck’s eyes begged for help. Droser was ready to leave him to his fate, and he remembered the golden serpent in the reporter’s aura. Maybe it meant something worth knowing, and this was his chance to investigate.
Droser lunged forward, giving silent thanks to his Fae ancestor since the Bardagamaður (one of the few perks of that sprinkle of Supra in him) slowed the movements of the people fighting around him. He maneuvered around the jabs and kicks, grabbing Eck’s thick upper arm and pulling him out of the commotion.
“Secure the doors, none of those people live in this building,” Droser ordered the building’s computer as Eck and he looked at the riot from behind reinforced glass. They saw how the two hovering recorders were used to smash faces. More people were joining both bands, and police sirens could be heard in the distance.
“At once, Mister Sundew,” the computer agreed serenely.
“Thank you. It would have not been good to start punching viewers,” Eck said, heaving.
“Are you kidding me?”
What a pompous jackass. Droser narrowed his eyes as another surprise emerged from Eck’s aura. The man was saying something, and his aura projected a completely different thing. Deep inside, Eck was concerned for the safety of those outside— not for what they would have thought of him if he had violently defended himself
Your aura revealed your state of mind, and very few people were able to contradict with their mouths what their auras showed brightly. Droser got distracted by the tribal sun circling Eck’s right nipple. His eyes moved lower, and there were words tattooed, like the stanza of a poem or the chorus of a song (because it had a certain rhythm to it), but it wasn’t English. On the left flank, the face of a lion stared back at him menacingly, his mane flowing toward the center Eck’s defined abs.
“Ahem.” Eck cleared his throat. “As much as I appreciate you ogling me with such enthusiasm, it would be nice if we could go to your apartment so I could borrow a shirt or something.”
“There was no enthusiasm,” Droser uttered harshly.
Eck arched an eyebrow. “If you say so.” He didn’t physically shrug, but his voice was a blatant shrug.
“I can still throw you outside to join your viewers.”
“That would be most disappointing.” Eck winked.
“Save your charm for someone who might actually enjoy it. C’mon.”
They walked toward the bay of elevators. They entered, and, as the door slid close, Droser kept his eyes pointedly forward after he put his thumb on the recognition pad, and the metal cage sped upward. He could feel Eck’s eyes on him, though.
“You haven’t seen my shotguns.”
“Is that a proposition?”
The mirth in Eck’s voice was sunny and preposterous. Droser remained looking forward. “You’re not my type.”
“I am everybody’s type.”
“And I’m not everybody.”
“Touché.” Eck chuckled.
Since Droser wanted Eck to cooperate when he started questioning him, he came up with a peace offering, even though Droser could always drug Eck’s ass with a cool truth serum he had stashed in his interrogation kit. “What are those tattooed words?” Droser asked, as the doors opened on the seventieth floor and they exited the elevator, turning right to his apartment.
“It’s the first stanza of Baudelaire’s ‘The Cat’,” Eck offered proudly.
“You have it in French.”
“Of course, all the known translations are rubbish. Besides Je parle parfaitement le français.”
“The only thing I can shoot in French is Voulez-vous coucher avec moi? And everybody knows that.”
Instead of going with the opening Droser had stupidly given, Eck placidly said, “But you are not everybody.”
“You’ve got that one right.” Droser laughed in spite of his reticence to encourage Eck. He thumbed the apartment’s recognition pad.
The door opened, and the house computer greeted him happily, “Welcome back, Droser.” It took a heartbeat to do facial recognition. “Welcome, Mister Eckhart.”
Eck stared at Droser askance— then smirked.
“What? You are on the media all the time. The computer would have recognized Madonna too. Don’t flatter yourself.”
Eck guffawed. “Shit. If Madonna ever comes to your house please give me a call. I’ll be here in a jiffy.”
“I need to make a call.” Droser waved Eck away. “First door to your left. I don’t think I have anything that will actually fit you, but maybe a vest could cover your nipples at least.” He rolled his eyes.
“I’m sure I’ll find something.” Eck smiled and walked toward the bedroom.
His round ass looked good in his navy blue dress pants, but for Droser it was too perky, too in-your-face. There was only one ass worth of occupying his thoughts. He needed to call Orfeo. He activated his communicator and made the request.
Miraculously, Orfeo answered. “Are you all right?” He sounded truly concerned but didn’t activate the image function, and there was loud music in the background. Although, it was not happy music; it was Madonna’s (how déjà vu -ish) First Life “Love Tried to Welcome Me” song.
“I’m good, but that in the background is depression music.”
“Oh shut up. Nick Cave’s ‘O Children’ would have been worse.”
“You do know your depression classics,” Droser chuckled, “and perhaps I have the keys to the gulag. ’Cause your gun is not little, but it’s lovely.”
Droser had to admit he sounded a lot like Eck. That wasn’t a good thing, but something inside him just went cheesy around Orfeo.
“I’m going to hang up if you don’t stop the corniness.”
“You never gave me the chance to say good-bye.”
“Say it then.” Orfeo lost all signs of the original concern in his voice.
“I need to say more than good-bye.”
“What for? The city is going to hell in a basket after the frigging Supras broadcasted Star. People will lose faith in the boundaries and the motherfuckers will attack. We’re leaving before that happens. That growing thing between us doesn’t have a place anymore. Not after what you did and what’s coming.”
“If you’d just give me a chance to prove I’m not a total asshole.”
“I’m pretty sure you could live with half an asshole beside you.”
“We met at the wrong time, Droser.”
“Everything happens for a reason.”
“That’s what Star says.”
“Then believe her.”
“I’m not going to force it. Say it.”
“Take care of yourself, Droser. You can be a complete asshole now. So long.” Orfeo disconnected the communication, leaving the dark screen mute.
“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.” Droser turned around and found Eck staring at him with an uneasy grimace.
“Seems like whatever that was didn’t work out,” Eck said softly.
“Well.” Eck shrugged. “How do I look?”
Some Eck Facts
Born in the Petrarch borough, Eck received his Master’s degree in Communication at the University of Meridian in 2121. A year later he became the first human journalist allowed to do a report on Assignment Day (this is the day in the Vampire Area when roles within the community are distributed and it’s done when humans reach the age of 14). After that story, his career has been steadily upward.Now he has a show entitled “In Twenty Questions or Less,” where he tackles Meridian and national issues, reporting many times directly from Suprabeing controlled areas. Charismatic and energetic, he supports quite a few charities as a silent contributor.