The Howell Vineyards are a popular wine production area north of Capital City on Cubeo 3, traditionally run by the Howell family for many generations.
The Howell Vineyards stretch across a fairly large area north of Capital City, not far from a highway. They have roughly a thousand employees that either live across the residences throughout the Howell lands or commute from Capital City.
- Heads of the Howell family: Gabriel and Henrietta Howell
- Master of Production: Luigi Salvia
The Howell Lands
Howell Vineyards Main Area
Howell Vineyards Capital City Wine Store
Gloria Howell started an initiative to have an additional store location in Raven Tower in Capital City. The opening of the store was sponsored by Senator Marina Yao and the Bear family.
This store has reserves to sell to customers as well as areas for tastings and making deals with potential clients that want to get shipments from the Howell Vineyards. Every now and then, employees from the vineyards come over to the store to get special representation and participate in store activities and events.
Under Gloria's supervision, Alyssa Monroe runs this particular store. Other staff members of the store are Kira Manato, Akihiro Nakamura, and Will Clarke.
Only little is known about the Howell vineyards before Gloria Howell's birth and the eras of Gabriel Howell's ancestors.
Excerpts from Gloria Howell's bio:
Gloria Howell was born into the Howell family in 3276. She is an identical twin, born just about fifteen minutes after her sister Gina. They grew up on the Howell Vineyards, a traditional family wine business about half an hour of a ride north of Capital City. Both sisters were expected to integrate into the wine business and take over the vineyards after their parents.
They had a great childhood until things suddenly changed in 3289. It was supposed to be a very special day for the twins as it was the first time their parents took them to space. The Howells went to Chelomey Orbital for a special business export arrangement. To allow them to experience the wonder of space and a space station they took their kids with them, giving them to a local childcare service during the business meeting. As the kids were playing with other children that had busy parents on the station, one of the caretakers took Gina away. Furious to find Gina gone when they wanted to pick the kids up again, Gloria's family immediately alerted station security and began a search. It was too late. The caretaker was found hiding and questioned until he confessed that he wanted to hold the girl hostage in an airlock for ransom. Something went wrong and the airlock opened before he even started his extortion. They were too late; Gina's corpse could not be found. They would never see her again. The caretaker was scheduled to be executed for his crime.
The tragedy created a stir. News articles spoke about the "Howell Tragedy" at length and how a horrible crime like that could happen. The family was devastated and mourning for a long time. In a very bittersweet way, the incident and the people's compassion with the Howells gave the business more attention than ever before and increased sales of Howell wine significantly. After some time of coping with the situation, a special memorial for Gina was built into the eastern wall of the manor of the Howell Estate.
The Howell business continued and slowly left the public shadow of the Howell Tragedy over the next dozen years. When the politics in the bubble began to change and Aisling Duval started controlling Cubeo with a progressive and populist view, the vineyards were affected by the ban on Imperial Slavery. Of course, like pretty much every business of that kind, the Howell vineyards had also relied on labor from Imperial Slaves. The ban imposed several challenges to overcome and they adapted quickly - earning them a lot of positive press coverage. It was not possible to just turn all the slaves into fully paid employees. Cuts had to be made as the higher standards made it impossible to keep the same number of workers. Nevertheless, the Howells made sure every single worker from Imperial Slavery was freed of their debts. They either got a very reasonable formal and well-paid employment offer or were sponsored to find new opportunities elsewhere, mostly in Capital City. Since the Empire values manual human labor and frowns upon robot automation, there was the problem of keeping the vineyards running with fewer employees. To address this situation, they came up with the concept of Companion Drones. Every worker has a personal Companion Drone that assists with tasks that do not need the "human touch" to make Howell wine the best wine north of Capital City. It mixed the advantages of valued human employees with an acceptable level of automation from the helper drones. Again, the vineyards got some media attention that improved their reputation. As of today, the Howell Vineyards have around 1000 employees, spread across the vineyards with apartments near the main estate, additional housing across the fields, as well as some commuting from Capital City.
For Gloria, things were not always easy after she became a single child of the Howell family. As she grew older, she became somewhat sick of the prospect of continuing the vineyards. She wanted to get away from it, the pressure of being expected to take over, and the haunting memories of Gina. While she was still proud of her family's legacy, she discovered an interest in stories and reporting. The criminal incident with Gina might have awoken an interest in stories of heroes fighting crime. To her fortune, her parents supported her and allowed her to do whatever she wanted. The loss of Gina had changed their view - they just wanted their only remaining daughter to be happy. Around the age of 20, she moved to the city of Portstown and started her first job as an independent journalist. There were little of the exciting and dangerous stories she was hoping to tell, but she still enjoyed her work. After years of low-scale writing there, she got hungry for more and decided to move to Capital City itself.
Things changed again for Gloria when she met Lord Warden Mystler and Vice Warden Catherine Edmunds dating on Trapeze in 3306. She took the opportunity to offer her services and start press coverage for the Branch of Vigor, which would benefit from it a lot as it was rebuilding its reputation after the Vigor in Peril drama. The Lord Warden would later accept the offer and Gloria would start working on her "The Heroes of Reality" program, telling stories of members of the Branch of Vigor and the Overseers, raising awareness for the people that protect the citizens of Cubeo and beyond on a daily basis.
That was not all that changed though. Catherine recognized Gloria's appearance and after some questioning realized that Gloria is the twin sister of Gina. Gina was not killed in an accident back on Chelomey - the entire thing was staged by a criminal organization and Gina was, in fact, kidnapped alive. Her memories were wiped and she was raised under the codename of "The Tulip", indoctrinated to be an agent, infiltrator, and assassin of the organization called "The Order". The Order aimed to influence and rig the area of nearby systems to their own vision of what the Empire should be, all from the shadows of a hidden base. Catherine was abducted the same way as a child (her codename was "The Orchid"). Gina and Catherine were friends - as far as the Order allowed that - also trying to beat each other on a "scoreboard" of who is the better agent. After many years together in the Order, Catherine had a miraculous incident that made her slowly regain her memories and realize the terror she was part of. Catherine ended up destroying the Order and its base from within. In the process, she fought and killed Gina.
Catherine decided to tell Gloria the truth, even if it hurt. Catherine saw an innocent and free version of her former "friend" and wanted to start a friendship with Gloria. Nevertheless, she underestimated the impact that telling Gloria would have on her. Gloria was filled with rage. She hated Catherine for telling her the truth after it had taken her so long to come to terms with the only old version that her family knew. She hated Catherine for not saving Gina when Catherine was able to save herself, denying that Catherine tried to emphasize that she saw no way to redeem Gina. She hated Catherine for having such a dark past yet being alive and happy in a Vice Warden position when Gloria had to deal with the fact that her sister was a dead murderer. The rage festered and turned into an obsession. It reached the boiling point when she decided to take up an invitation by Catherine. After some conversation, Gloria wanted to serve "justice" and "retribution" herself and pulled a gun on Catherine. She was close to pulling the trigger, turning herself into a murderer as well. However, Catherine managed to talk her out of it and offer her the ear and the help Gloria needed to process her inner turmoil. The two decided to start over and try becoming friends.
Their friendship grew rapidly after that as the two women reinforced each other in different aspects of their lives. For Catherine, it was having a real friend, better than the Tulip before. Gloria on the other hand started to admire Catherine for her strength in everything she has been through. Gloria would eventually end up Catherine's best friend, also serving as maid of honor at Catherine's wedding.
Shortly before the wedding, Gloria also met Marina Yao for the first time. Marina was a new CMDR that quickly gained a lot of reputation as an independent reporter. She reached out to Marina to jump on the train and use her to get more attention, offering a partnership of independent reporters. Gloria got much more than she expected as Marina turned out to be a great and generous friend, offering her a new space right next to her in Raven Tower. Marina also got both of them into an affiliated position with Rupey Bear at The People's Media.
In the following weeks, Gloria and Marina got closer and closer. They shared their traumas of lost sisters on while visiting the Howell Vineyards, had a dangerous deep sea adventure, and even had to cope with the two of them accidentally killing a manned ship together. They went through a lot together, in just a short amount of time, all the while reinforcing each other and making each other happy like never before. Just like Marina, Gloria began to realize that she had deeper feelings for Marina. Both of them had to discover their feelings on their own at first until, with a little bit of help from Catherine, they finally talked about it, kissed, and started a relationship.
Gloria's family was then challenged as the Dawes Group Holdings megacorporation from Achenar attempted to buy their vineyards for commercialized mass-production as part of their beverage empire. The Howells resisted that takeover despite the enormous sum that was offered, trying to protect their identity and principles. Dawes followed by acquiring the competing Ortega vineyards instead and running a smear campaign against the Howells. They also bought all Howell stock in an attempt to make it unavailable for consumers, favoring Ortega wine instead. Luckily, the Howell Vineyards got a lot of support, most notably by the Bear family and Lady Rupey Bears position in the People's Media. Howell wine started to become more of a special rare commodity for connoisseurs while Ortega wine proceeded to take over the cheap market.
Alongside Marina, Gloria started to rethink what she wants from life. She started to feel more responsible and interested in her family's business. However, since running the vineyards still wasn't something that she considered herself capable and qualified for, she instead decided to take initiative in opening and running a new Howell Vineyards Capital City Wine Store in Raven Tower. It would become her main project alongside being a reporter for "The Heroes of Reality".
With help from Marina, who contributed trading licenses, and the success of the new store in Capital City, the Howell Vineyards' market stabilized, their reputation grew, and they signed a lot of export deals to make Howell wine more accessible outside Cubeo, in other areas of the Empire as well as the Prismatic Imperium's Adamantine Union region.
A very emotional time came when Marina wanted to do something special for Gloria: acquiring her sister's body. Marina had reached out to Catherine before but received a denial. However, after Gloria and Marina happened to meet a former victim that was manipulated by the Tulip and Gloria even saw a picture of her sister, Catherine realized Gloria's deep connection to her sister. She trusted Marina with the location and Marina went on a dangerous expedition to recover Gina's body. Following that, Gloria was confronted with sadness but also with closure that her sister's body was finally returned. Together with Marina and Catherine, they went to the Howell Vineyards and held a small funeral, welcoming her back home.