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The Third Neo Zeon War (or Laplace Conflict) is a series of battles between the Earth Federation and the Neo Zeon faction nicknamed "The Sleeves" during the year U.C. 0096, three years after the end of the Second Neo Zeon War led by Char Aznable. The conflict revolves around each respectve side's quest to find a mysterious object known as "Laplace's Box", and the battles fought over control of its "key", the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam. Although the contents of the box are unknown, the importance of Laplace's Box to both sides is significant since the box is rumored to be capable of destroying the Earth Federation.
Ever since the Laplace Incident in UC 0001, the influential Vist Foundation possessed and protected a secret that held the power to either create the future that was envisioned when the Universal Century was created, or simply destroy the world. This secret - Laplace's Box - created a precarious power balance in the Earth Sphere that has thus far endured for almost a hundred years. By UC 0096, most of the individuals involved with the box have died out, but the fear of the box's power, as well as the expectation to maintain the status-quo, have remained.
Three years after Char's Rebellion was eventually quashed, what remained of Neo Zeon continued a guerilla campaign against the Federation with the covert support of some colonies, several politicians, and (presumably) even the support of Anaheim Electronics. This group - nicknamed the Sleeves - was barely holding together and relied on the charisma and the leadership of Full Frontal - who is widely known as the Second Coming of Char Aznable - to continue.
The Federation, similarly, was suffering from sheer attrition from its participation in the One Year War, the Gryps Conflict, and both Neo Zeon wars. Ever since the Second Neo Zeon War, the Federation has maintained a tight grip on space as they continued to hunt for Zeonic remnants in the Earth Sphere. During this time, little was done on environmental reclaimation and the Earth's health had not improved over the years. These factors taxed the Federation to the brink of collapse and forced the Earth's economy and energy needs to now completely depend on the seven Sides and the Moon.
However, most importantly, both sides by this point had completely forsaken their founding ideologies and have been reduced to shadows of their former selves with the Federation content with simply ruling over the Earth Sphere and Zeon continuing to fight the Federation for its own sake rather than for a cause. With both sides beginning to wear themselves out and make their relationship an eternally antagonistic one, the Vist Foundation realized that as things stand, the Earth Sphere would not be able to continue. They concluded that the time had come to change the power balance the box had established, and correct the inherent flaws of the Universal Century. But in order to do this, they had to give up the source of its prosperity and power - The box itself.
Passing The Box
The Foundation started the chain of events leading to the conflict by secretly contacting the Sleeves regarding their wish to pass Laplace's Box onto them. Unable to refuse the offer, the Sleeves agreed to meet at Industrial 7, a colony at Side 4 and sent Suberoa Zinnerman and his ship Garencieres to Industrial 7 in order to lead negotiations personally. An initial skirmish began when a Clop-Class Cruiser attacked the Sleeves ship while en route to the exchange with a small squadron of mobile suits. With the aid of its NZ-666 Kshatriya, the Garencieres was able to brush off the attack and continued on its way.
Meanwhile, at Industrial 7, the Vist Foundation prepared for the exchange by completing the development of the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam. The mobile suit was to be the 'key' to Laplace's Box and meant to be given to the Sleeves as a test of whether they were worthy of the box's contents. However, unknown to both sides, Anaheim Electronics executive Alberto Vist informed the Earth Federation of the exchange and in response, the Federation dispatched the Londo Bell taskforce and its ECOAS Special Forces to seize Laplace's Box during the negotiations. The Federation waited as the Sleeves arrived and as the negotiations began, Londo Bell made its move.
Battle at Industrial 7
While moving in, the element of surprise was lost when one of the Sleeve lookouts opened fire on the approaching Federation forces. The battle quickly escalated as the fighting between Londo Bell and the Sleeves began moving into the colony's interior. As a result, the negotiations between the Sleeves and the Vist Foundation collapsed and while the Sleeves fought to escape what they saw as a trap on the Vist Foundation's part, the Foundation raced to secure the key and destroy all traces of it. High numbers of casualties and massive destruction ensued as the battle continued to unfold. Ultimately, the key would wind up in the possession of Banagher Links, a student at the Anaheim Electronics Technical School with links to Laplace's Box. Banagher would take the Unicorn and battled against Marida Cruz, the Kshatriya's pilot, eventually forcing the latter to retreat after the Unicorn transformed into a Gundam and overpowered the Kshatriya. As Zinnerman and his crew successfully escaped Industrial 7, Marida received instructions to retreat, effectively ending the battle.
Off the battlefield, the Foundation's leader, Cardeas Vist , was killed by his son Alberto during the battle. This caused leadership of the Foundation to be passed on to Martha Vist Carbine and under her, she began reversing Cardeas's actions to pass the box onto Neo Zeon and began working with the Federation to preserve the box's secrecy and maintain the current power balance. However, she was unable to recover the box itself as its location was a true mystery to all. As such, her only option was to let Cardeas's plan continue and let the Unicorn lead her and the Federation to the box.
Battle of Palau
After the Battle at Industrial 7, Londo Bell, along with ECOAS took possession of the Unicorn after the Sleeves retreated. While hiding in an asteroid field, the Nahel Argama is found by the Sleeves and comes under attack. This time, the Sleeve attack force is led by Full Frontal, who is believed to be "The Second Coming of Char", and his Royal Guards led by Angelo Sauper. The Nahel Argama struggles to defend itself against Frontal's MSN-06S Sinanju as Frontal easily defeats the ship's mobile suits in battle. The battle is quickly halted when ECOAS commander Daguza Mackle reveals to the Neo Zeon forces (and to the Nahel Argama crew) that Audrey Burne - a civilian they rescued from Industrial 7 - is in fact the Princess of Zeon and the last surviving member of the Zabi Family, Mineva Lao Zabi. Daguza offers to return Mineva in exchange for safe passage to Von Braun. However, Frontal does not believe that Audrey is actually Mineva and demands everything the Nahel Argama has that is related to Laplace's Box, including the Gundam. Failing to comply within three minutes, he threatens to destroy the ship unless his demands are met. Eventually, negotiations break down and with little choice, Banagher launches in the Unicorn to battle Frontal and give the Nahel Argama time to escape. Aided by Riddhe Marcenas in a RGZ-95 ReZEL, the two are able to push back Frontal but when Marida and her Kshatriya intervenes, the Sleeves manage to disable the ReZEL and capture the Unicorn. With the Unicorn in their possession, the Sleeves withdraw and return to their fortress at Palau, a mining asteroid at Side 6.
With both the Unicorn and Banagher taken to the asteroid base of Palau, Londo Bell in conjunction with two ECOAS teams devise a rescue mission to recover both. The two ECOAS teams led by Daguza Mackle covertly land on the surface of Palau and plant explosives on Palau's connecting bridges. A disguised soldier infiltrates Palau to hand a captive Banagher instructions to head to the 14th space gate, where the rescue team is waiting. After the explosives are detonated, the two halves of Palau are separated. The SCVA-76 Nahel Argama then fires its main cannon at the base to push the two disconnected halves together in a billiard effect. This effectively seals off Palau's military base and damages much of the Sleeves' forces. The operation was successful when Banagher and the Unicorn escape, as well as capturing Marida and the Kshatriya in the process. Audrey and Riddhe, along with his new MSN-001A1 Delta Plus, disappear during the battle as they secretly journey to Earth to persuade Ronan Marcenas - Riddhe's father and a major figure in Spacenoid policy - to end the conflict.
Clash at Laplace
After rescuing Banagher and the Unicorn, the Nahel Argama makes it way to the ruins of the Laplace space station in hopes of finding Laplace's Box there before the Sleeves do. Daguza suspects that the Unicorn's La+ program will unlock the box once it reaches Laplace at Midnight Granwich Mean Time, at which time Laplace will pass through 0 Degrees Latitude and Longitude. The Unicorn arrives at the coordinates at the proper time, but instead of opening the box, the program begins broadcasting the UC inauguration speech made at Laplace in UC 0001.
In the meantime, the Sleeves have tracked Londo Bell to Laplace and see that all of the Nahel Argama's forces have left for Laplace. Zinnerman's team on the Garencieres decides to take advantage of this to attack the ship and rescue Marida. Gilboa Sant volunteers to lead the raid and the attack is launched. Banagher senses the impending attack and tries to hold off the raid while the Nahel Argama's forces hurry back. However, Full Frontal and his Royal Guards soon arrive and fights Banagher to get the Unicorn's NT-D to activate, believing that doing so will unlock the Box. During the fight, Daguza is killed by Frontal and as Banagher and Frontal battle each other, Laplace begins to disintegrate and enter Earth's atmosphere around them. The raid eventually ends in a failure as Nahel Argama's forces return, and Gilboa is redeployed to recover Frontal's team. As the battle between Banagher and Frontal reaches its peak, Gilboa takes a shot meant for Frontal and while Frontal escapes, Banagher falls to Earth along with the remains of Laplace. Following the raid, Marida is taken to the Newtype labs in Augusta, the Garencieres descends to Earth and recovers the Unicorn, while the Nahel Argama is detained in orbit by the Federation's top brass.
Third Battle of Dakar
The third battle of Dakar was a decoy to distract the Federation from noticing the Garencieres ' descent to the Earth. The attack was spearheaded by Earth-based remnants of the Principality of Zeon, led by Loni Garvey piloting the mobile armor AMA-X7 Shamblo. The attack force was mostly wiped out by Federation forces guarding the capital but most of those forces - including several buildings and the senate capital - were wiped out themselves by the Shamblo's Mega Particle cannon. The battle ended before the Londo Bell ship Ra Cailum could arrive, with the end result being a death toll upwards of 40,000. The Garencieres was also able to land on Earth safely and successfully made contact with the Zeon remnants.
Second Battle of Torrington
After the attack on Dakar was completed, the Zeon remnants met with the crew of the Garencieres. There, after hearing about the next coordinates set by Unicorn's La+ program - Torrington Base in Australia - and Loni's suggestion to attack, Full Frontal eventually agreed with the suggestion and gave the green light for a full scale attack. The commander of Zeon's remnants on Earth, Yonem Kirks, gathered all Zeon remnants left behind after the One Year War, and the First and Second Neo Zeon Wars through an old, One Year War era radio code, predating the 3rd landing operation (which was, ironically, in Australia).
When the attack began, Torrington base was completely caught by surprise as the base itself was considered non-strategic and was only protected by a few ill-equipped defense squads. While the Zeon forces enjoyed much success initially and overwhelmed much of the initial patrols, the Ra Cailum arrived as the Tri-Stars - an elite trio of pilots - and a RX-160S Byarlant Custom stationed at Torrington began to decimate Zeon's mobile suits. This situation was not helped by the fact that the Shamblo, their supposed trump card, had gone off on its own to attack Torrington itself rather than support the Zeon forces attacking the base. The lack of support from the Shamblo eventually allowed the remaining Federation forces to reorganize and turned the battle into one of attrition that ultimately wiped out all the Zeon forces. The Shamblo itself was confronted by Banagher and Riddhe in the Unicorn and the Delta Plus. Although Banagher was initially successful in convincing Loni to stand down, Kirks' death at the hands of the Tri-Stars caused her to begin attacking again in a fit of anger and grief. Despite Riddhe continually encouraging Banagher towards killing Loni, Banagher is unable to bring himself to shoot her, forcing Riddhe to kill her himself. The shot disables the massive mobile armor, and Riddhe is then given orders to capture the Unicorn. Then suddenly, the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam "Banshee", piloted by reconditioned Cyber-Newtype, Marida Cruz, descends from the sky from a Vist Foundation Base Jabber. It trapped Riddhe under the Shamblo by slicing it in half before capturing the Unicorn and bringing it aboard the Ra Cailum.
Battle on the Garuda
Some time later, Marida, Riddhe and the Tri-Stars were to escort Banagher and Unicorn to the Garuda, where the Vist Foundation, now under the control of Martha Vist Carbine, would take both the Gundam and the captive Princess Mineva Lao Zabi into space.
Before this happened, Lono Bell commander Bright Noa became aware that General Staff HQ was planning on dispatching the General Revil to destroy the Nahel Argama waiting in orbit, so as to eliminate all witnesses to Laplace's Box. Thus, he had a fellow comrade and One Year War veteran Kai Shiden contacted the Garencieres and inform them of the plan. Bright also sent a message to the Nahel Argama, instructing them to aid in the Garencieres' rescue mission.
As the escort squadrons ascended into the stratosphere, the Garencieres emerged from the clouds and attacked the Garuda. The Garuda launched its Anksha squadron in response. The Tri-Stars declined to participate in the battle, deciding to escort the Unicorn. However, Banagher took the opportunity to escape, accidentally knocking Watts Stepney off his Base Jabber and commandeered it. Marida then began to attack him, eventually grappling with Banagher atop the Garuda, creating a psycofield that threatened to destroy the Garuda.
Listening in on the radio chatter, Riddhe soon realized what the Garencieres' true objective was and boarded the Garuda, intending to take Mineva from Martha's custody. However, Captain Suberoa Zinnerman had boarded the Garuda with a Base Jabber provided by Shiden, and laid down cover fire for Mineva to escape. However, an Anksha came too close to the Unicorn and Banshee's psycofield and exploded, causing damage to the Garuda and separated Zinnerman and Mineva. Mineva willingly chose to fall from the Garuda, calling for Banagher to catch her. Banagher sensed her call and diverted from the battle to catch her, bringing Mineva back aboard the Garencieres before going back for Zinnerman and Marida.
Marida and Banagher continued their struggle, bringing the fight into the Garuda's hangar. Riddhe, whose simmering animosity for Banagher began to surface, attempted to shoot him but Marida spotted him, mistaking the Delta Plus for a Gundam and tore it apart. It took coaxing from both Banagher and Zinnerman to calm her down and break her mental conditioning. Banagher then brought the two back to the Garencieres.
At this point, the Nahel Argama launched a tow cable at the Garencieres in order to pull the ship into orbit and thus escaping the battlefield. Unfortunately, the Garencieres suffered engine trouble, causing it to lose altitude. The Unicorn and two Gearu Zulus attempted to use their thrusters to boost the ship's altitude but it was not enough. The Unicorn managed to grab the Nahel Argama's cable, but it couldn't make a direct connection the Garencieres. The stress threatened to tear the Gundam apart when the Unicorn's psycoframe suddenly started to glow green and extended a psycofield around both ships, similar to the one that stop the fall of Axis, enabling the Garencieres to make orbit.
Ambush by the General Revil
Immediately after making orbit, both ships came under attack by the General Revil. As its mobile suits went on the attack, the Sleeves suddenly intervened, Lieutenant Angelo Sauper his YAMS-132 Rozen Zulu swiftly incapacitated the General Revil's machines, after which Angelo bowed out to set the stage for Full Frontal. Frontal then concentrated long range fire at the enemy ship, causing damage to it and disabling enemy mobile suits. Despite a beam dispersal screen and another wave of Jegans, Frontal easily defeated the mobile suits and continued to relentlessly attack the General Revil, causing the ship to recall its forces and retreat from the sector.
A Brief Interlude
It being apparent that the Laplace's Box conspiracy wanted all who know of it dead, the crew of the Nahel Argama was forced into an alliance of convenience with the Sleeves. The crew of the Garencieres abandoned ship to join the Londo Bell ship, leaving theirs as a decoy to draw off any pursuers. The Tri-Stars, refitted with Jesta Cannons, managed to catch up to the Garencieres. Upon hearing no response from their hails, Watts Stepney charged ahead and fired across its bow. Nigel soon realized that the ship was set to explode. Watts barely survived.
Meanwhile, the crew of the Nahel Argama slowly became antagonistic towards the Zeons slowly occupying their ship to the point where they threatened to force them off the ship. Captain Otto Mitas was briefly able to assuage their anxiety. He and Frontal then discussed the final coordinates to find Laplace's Box to be in a shoal zone, in the wreckage of the Battle of Loum. They only had the general location, but because Banagher had locked the Unicorn's La+ Program, the Sleeves were unable to get the precise location. Mitas then inquired as to Frontal's intentions for the box, suspecting that they might not revolve around reviving the Principality of Zeon, a sentiment that Mineva shared.
With Mineva turning on the intercom for all on the ship to hear, Frontal explained that the Federation will never grant the spacenoids their freedom, for they are too dependent on space for energy and food production. But if all the Sides economically boycotted the Earth, they would force a mass migration, causing the collapse of the Federation government. From the fallout, the only functioning government would be the Republic of Zeon. To do this, Frontal planned on forming a Side Co-Prosperity Sphere that would include the Sides and the Moon. However, the Federation planned to revoke the Republic's autonomy by UC 0100, putting a chink in their plans. Therefore, he would use the box to prevent the dissolution of the Republic, giving him the time to create the Side Co-Prosperity Sphere.
Mineva deplored Frontal's vision, for he intended to exclude the Earth from the Side Co-Prosperity Sphere. Instead of demanding change from those who have resisted reform, he would ostracize them. She declared it different from Zeon Deikun and Char Aznable's ideals, and would only lead to a cycle of repetitive conflict as future generations of Earthnoids would rebel against his world and further divide the Earth Sphere rather than uniting it. After Frontal claimed this to be the will of the spacenoids and dismissed Banagher's belief in human possibility, Mineva declared that Char is truly dead, before announcing that the final coordinates were at Industrial 7, specifically the colony builder, Magallanica.
A small number of crewmen collaborated with the ECOAS teams and sent out a distress signal and planned on forcing the Neo Zeons off the ship. However, they were caught by Angelo and held hostage. As a Federation patrol ship hailed the Nahel Argama, Mitas attempted to wave them off, not wanting to agitate the Sleeves. However, the patrol ship then detected the Rewloola and three Musaka-class ships using Federations IFFs and pressed for an explanation. Angelo demanded that Mitas fire on the patrol ship before they could call for reinforcements. Mitas refused his demand and dissolved their alliance. At that moment, ECOAS teams rescued the hostages and the crew began fighting to retake their ship. Only Frontal and Angelo made it off ship while the Garencieres crew sided with the Nahel Argama.
Meanwhile on Earth, top Federation officials led by Ronan Marcenas held an emergency meeting in Dakar to discuss the potential crisis of opening Laplace's Box. During this meeting, Martha walks in and offers a solution to this crisis. Since she isn't concerned with protecting the box anymore and is more interested in maintaining the Vist family's power in the Federation power structure, she proposes the use of the secret Gryps 2 colony laser to destroy the box, the Nahel Argama, and the Sleeves, and Industrial 7 in one stroke. Agreeing to this, Ronan, Martha, and Alberto traveled to the Gryps 2 control center in Cheyenne and began preparations.
On another front, Alberto reassigned the Banshee to the General Revil and secretly arranged for Riddhe to become the Banshee's pilot, instructing him to destroy the Unicorn and bring Marida back to him before the Foundation is forced to use Gryps 2. As the Nahel Argama's joint front with the Sleeves dissolved, Riddhe began his hunt for the Londo Bell ship and Banagher.
The war ended with the Earth Federation victory, thus ending the 17 years of war with the Neo Zeon forever and in U.C. 0100 the Republic of Zeon retired their independence and rejoined the Earth Federation. With Earth Sphere entering the era of peace for the next 23 years, however the peace was shattered and the conflict restarted again when Mars Zeon stole the F90 Gundam F90 in U.C. 0120. The Earth Federation leadership was given back to the hands of civilians following the end the of war and the Spacenoids were given the adminstration of the government by the Late UC. The Earth Federation government would decide to decrease military spending but maintain the same amount of force due to time of peace.