DARPA researcher Dr. Mark Clyne flies out to Moldova, the current deployment location of the US military in the ongoing Moldovan War, to be consulted on one of his creations, a line of hyperspectral imaging goggles that have been issued to troops there. After arriving at a US military air base on the outskirts of Chișinău, he meets with General Orland and CIA officer Fran Madison. They show him footage captured by the troops’ goggles of a mysterious, translucent, humanoid apparition that kills almost instantaneously. Knowing it is not interference, Orland wants Clyne’s expert opinion before forwarding the findings and footage to his superiors. Conversely, Madison believes the sightings to be members of the insurgency wearing an advanced form of active camouflage and has orders from her superiors to retrieve a sample.
To get a clearer shot of the anomalies and identify them, both Clyne and Madison accompany a team of Delta Force operators into the field to find Utah team that went missing the day before. To capture a better image of the apparitions, Clyne mounts a larger, more powerful version of the hyperspectral camera on top of one of the armored personnel carriers. Upon arriving at the location, they discover members of the Utah team dead along with the insurgents. They are ambushed by the apparitions, who, being impervious to small arms fire and explosives, inflict heavy casualties before the soldiers retreat. When landmines render their vehicles inoperable, the group takes cover in an abandoned factory where they find two children barricaded inside. The apparitions attempt to follow them but are stopped by a barrier of iron shavings. The children share that their father scattered the shavings to protect his children before he was killed. The survivors make contact with the air base and set up a rendezvous. Clyne modifies the hyperspectral camera into a large searchlight, which enables the group to see the apparitions without the need for goggles. Clyne points out the numerous crates of iron shavings lying around the factory that the unit uses to turn their grenades into IEDs laced with iron shavings to give them a fighting chance. Fortified with these new weapons, the group sets out for the rendezvous point about a half-mile away from the factory. About an hour before the extraction time the apparitions find a way to cross the barrier – forcing the survivors to leave the factory.
After exiting the factory, the apparitions chase the group who use the iron explosives to slow them down. Reinforcements and a helicopter evac join them at the rendezvous point, a large abandoned plaza. However, they are ambushed by the apparitions and are barely able to escape as the figures proceed to destroy the tanks and kill the soldiers sent as backup. Once safely in the air, they receive word from Orland that the apparitions have overrun the air base so they are redirected to a civilian bunker controlled by the allied Moldovan military. Thinking over what he learned from the young girl they had found, Clyne deduces the apparitions are likely man-made and are made of Bose-Einstein condensate, which explains their ability to move through walls, freeze people to death, and the inability to pass through iron shavings and ceramic materials (hence their inability to enter tanks’ ceramic armor). Working overnight with Orland and surviving military engineers, he constructs several makeshift pulse weapons capable of breaking down the condensate. The next morning, the remaining American soldiers head to the Masarov power plant in the center of the city, as Clyne believes it is the only facility capable of generating the power needed to create the condensate.
While the soldiers mount an offensive distraction on the roof of the plant, Clyne and Madison descend down to a recently overrun laboratory inside. They deduce that scientists, working in weapons research for the former regime, were scanning humans on a molecular level and using advanced 3D printing to replicate them in condensate form. The human test subjects’ brains and central nervous systems were then removed and hooked up to a central machine which keeps the condensate copies (or “apparitions”) alive. With the battle above threatening to release the remaining condensates, Clyne finally finishes activation of the failsafe system, which deactivates the condensate apparitions. Believing that whatever level of consciousness remaining is in pain, he unplugs the human remains from the machine, finally giving them peace.
With the apparitions gone, the US and allied Moldovan military continue their work of taking control of the city from the insurgents. A Department of Defense extraction team is to be sent back to the plant with the Delta Force operators to take the machinery apart and potentially use it for their own purposes. Saying goodbye to Madison and General Orland, Clyne boards an aircraft to be taken back home to Virginia.