The orbital hook passed each exchange every 70 hours, and this cycle was the foundation of everything on the moon's surface. In order to keep the hook balanced properly in orbit every station had to load 60 lunar pounds on every pass. In exchange, 60 lunar pounds of supplies from the colony fleet. Every time, 60 up and 60 down, no matter what. The most common upward cargo was mined gas and minerals that were useful in fabrication and fuel, these goods served as the primary source of value for the workers living soil-side. Waste and recycling materials took up a notable chunk. While of little value to the fleet, it was easier to dispose in the engine forges or jettison from a frigate cannon, and didn't risk polluting the faint atmosphere beginning to develop. Very rarely, a crate of art, culture and media created by the miners gets scheduled into a lift. While the fleet didn't tend to reward these contributions, a few academics took interest in collecting miner media.
Downward, food was still the largest share of cargo. The indoor farms were beginning to scale up their capacity, but the miners still weren't producing enough food on their own. Tools and equipment were next, but if a particularly large machine needed to be dropped, an equivalent lift had to be scheduled, and that still came with a fuel cost that discouraged the option. Care packages from family in orbit weren't uncommon, though they were often limited to light weight. Clothing and supplies rounded out most of the rest these days. There wasn't much room to devote to culture and art, most miners relied on the fleet broadcast streams for entertainment.
Lt. Netson oversaw intake on the fleet end of things, reviewing what was reported for pickup and verifying what was actually received. The role was mostly perfunctory, no one was all that interested in risking the hook with dishonest exchanges. The strict need for weight matching discouraged most types of interference in the operation. But he did maintain a live report of what the next round of lifts was scheduled to contain, so the cargo crews knew which bays to prep and the traders knew when to collect supplies. As dawn broke over the mining colony, the usual battery of cargo updates began to fill his inbox. Netson opened the first, and chills washed down his spine. "60 Lunar Pounds: Corpses". Collecting bodies was always an interruption to the flow, and there was only so much that could be done to reduce the weight of a body before putting it on the lift. He sighed, logged the pickup for the deacons to attend to, and brought up the following lift load. "60 Lunar Pounds: Corpses." The chills froze in place. Two full loads of corpses, back to back? He paged through the next few reports. "Corpses. Corpses. Corpses." In fact, almost the entire pass today was devoted to lifting bodies. He paged the Captain. "Sir, something's wrong. The pickups today are full of dead miners. It looks like a bloody massacre down there. What the hell happened on the surface last night."
The captain's stern voice crackled back, "Understood. It's need to know right now, Lieutenant, I'm sorry. We are requesting an emergency override of today's drops. We're replacing everything but half of the food with medicine, and weapons."
"Weapons, sir?" The armory was well stocked, but rarely accessed out here around the dead rocks. "Did they find something?"
"Something found them, and that's all I'm at liberty to say. Get those armory kits ready to drop ASAP. Captain out."