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"I went back to science fiction to try a few experiments …and my first experiment was a disaster…"
- Alfred Bester

Plug-Ups  
  Tiny plastic balls that seal leaks on spacecraft.  

These devices were used in Climber-type warships due to their exceedingly thin hulls.

"Where're the plug-ups?" the Commander demands...

"Oh." The man doing the relay talking hits a switch. Little gas-filled plastic balls swarm into the compartment. They range from golf-ball to tennis-ball size...

The plug-ups will drift aimlessly throughout the patrol, and will soon fade into the background environment. No one will think about them unless the hull is breached. Then our lives could depend on them. They'll rush to the hole, carried by the escaping atmosphere. If the breach is small, they'll break trying to get through. A quick-setting, oxygen-sensitive goo coats their insides.

From Passage at Arms, by Glen Cook.
Published by Warner in 1985
Additional resources -

Compare to Robert Heinlein's tag-along balloons from his 1948 story Gentlemen, Be Seated.

Special thanks to Winchell Chung, who probably doesn't remember contributing this item.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Passage at Arms
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