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Nightmare

The footage reminded him of a nightmare, worse than any he had ever experienced. Gunfire and screams, fire and darkness, hazy monstrosities just at the edge of your vision and then when you turn they're gone. He could still hear their growls and see eyes burning in the darkness hours after the video had come to an end.

"Dr. Olaf do you know of any robotics capable of throwing a man a 50 meters?" Someone asked, at the edge of his perception. "Dr. Olaf? Dr. ...?"

"Tim" someone to his right said and placed a hand on his shoulder. The woman patted and then pointed back down the table. "General Simmons had a question."

Tim shook himself back into the now. "I guess that's a complicated question. I'd need to know the mass of the man, the speed he traveled and the amount of time he was under acceleration before being launched. But off the top of my head I can't think of anyone specifically designing a robot that launches people. I can imagine that it's a huge amount of energy though, the record for human cannonball is just around that and they use specially designed cannons." The reality was that his mind couldn't comprehend the question.

"It was reported that the 'monster scooped up the target and tossed him over the shoulder possibly 50 meters'"

He shuddered at the thought of something big enough to scoop up a full size man like that. "Certainly nothing I've ever had direct experience with. Launching a human being isn't exactly a trivial matter even when you have a cooperative one. I can't speculate about what it would take to launch someone who didn't want to be launched." He paused thinking through all the different arm and hand experiments he was aware of. "I can think of a dozen hand or claw systems large enough to pick up say 80 kg, but they're industrial designs made for manufacturing. They'd end up cutting someone in half versus launching them."

Another man at the opposite side of the table spoke up. "Is it possible that one of those systems could be repurposed?"

"No. The articulations are all wrong. The things in the video are too organic, more like human articulations than a manufacturing robot. Plus manufacturing robots are hydraulic, they're noisy, and they need a lot of power. Not at all like what we're seeing or hearing here." He ran through what he saw, looked at the sketches and the still frames, sorted through eye witness material. It still didn't compute anywhere within his reality.

"I'm going to go way out on a limb and ask a dumb question. Are you absolutely sure this hasn't been faked, some propaganda piece or maybe even some student's CGI class project? Or is this just a drill that I'm participating in to make it seem real to you guys?"

"We have some very battle hardened U.S. special ops guys in Faluja hiding under their bunks wishing the monsters away." The general retorted. "I'd say that's proof enough for me that it's not an art school project. What you need to focus on is who could possibly have this level of technology."

"I'm sorry, this is just outside of the realm of what we have in the industry, even the top secret stuff doesn't come close to this yet. These things are what about 4 meters tall and nearly silent. No engine noise or obvious exhaust systems for a generator, no heat signature, no markings or identifiable machine work. The closest thing we've got is a human sized exoskeleton that still needs a lot of work on sound dampening and extending the power supply time."

One of the generals stood. "Dr. Olaf we were told you were the best in your field, best in the world. What we need from you is to look over this data and come back with answers. There has to be something, anything, that will point us in the right direction. I can't have my soldiers going into battle shitting their pants because they might run into one of these things. You'll have whatever resources you need, but we need some answers, not more questions!" He slapped a folder of pictures down on the table in front of Tim and then, grabbing his hat, he stormed out of the door.