Some time later the passage beyond the hatch was littered with floating disabled hulks. Jackson had gone through several racks worth of the altered phones and was waiting on yet more when suddenly the behavior of the oncoming bots changed. Several were making their way toward their position when, without warning, they stopped, turned, and started toward the forward end of the ship—the bridge, where Dann and Rose were clambering about the hull.
Jackson tapped her phone’s activation sequence. “Chambers? Rose? Whatever you did, thanks,” Jackson said, relief on her face. “They’re pulling away! What did you do?”
“I think we pulled them off of you and onto us,” the reply came. “Let’s just hope it takes them a while to get to us.” Chambers’ voice was stressed, but it didn’t sound serious. She was about to reply when Pixton poked her head out through the door. “Jackson, I’ve got more for you here—oh! W-what are they doing now?” she said, eyes wide.
“Rose and Chambers,” Jackson said. “They did something, pulled their attention. I don’t know if we’re going to need those,” she gestured at the phones, “but let’s keep ‘em out here just in case they decide to come back.
Dann stripped off the suit with shaking hands, barely resisting the urge to hug the enclosing bulkheads that surrounded them once again. “I am so glad to be back inside,” he said fervently.
“You did fine, Dann. In fact, you did much better than fine. Do you know you’re now in the top 1% of known human space walkers, measured by duration?”
“That’s because nobody in their right mind would want to make a habit of that,” he said. “I know I sure don’t plan to.”
He’d just stowed away the last of his suit when Pixton burst into the room, followed by a steadier Jackson. “D-do you have it? Where is it? Is that—is that it?” she asked, eyeing the large device floating beside Rose within easy gripping range.
“That’s it, at least when it’s got power,” Dann nodded wearily. He’d been out on the hull for almost 10 hours; to say he was run down was a serious understatement. “It won’t be causing us any more trouble.”
“Good,” Jackson said, “because we have more trouble.”
Dann’s heart sank. “What is it now? We didn’t lose any more people did we?”
“No, nothing like that,” Jenny said, eyes still locked on the device. She looked like she was about to attack the thing, though whether she wanted to tear it apart out of anger or a simple desire to figure out how it worked, he couldn’t say.