It was quiet in the off-rotation shift - too quiet, the very atmosphere still and heavy or, worse, moving in all the wrong ways. There was no hum in either the air or the berth beneath his backplates, none of the familiar harmonics of engines that were all he had ever known, and the absence was a thousand times more noticeable in the quiet than it was otherwise.
The gravity was set wrong. He kept coming back to that, endlessly, an instinctive first assessment that pinged relentlessly against his processor. The gravity was set wrong, Ironhide had had to shift his hydraulics and vent systems higher to compensate. Optics shuttered, he focused on that because the alternative was focusing on the Pit slagging quiet and how his first protocol response to that was a sparkburst of panic because the atmo-control were off, there was a malfunction, the temperature was already dropping, the ship circulation dead, engines silent, and there was no worse thing for a ship in the black than the loss of power and function.
Except there was no malfunction and the gravity was precisely what it should be for a planetary mass with Cybertron's core density and spin. Hydraulics and stabilizers calibrated for movement on ship and in zero-g had betrayed him in the planetary gravity well, giving his steps a heavy, lumbering quality and made his movements too slow and clumsy. It had been another thing for them to mock, along with the xenophonemes of the Guard cant in his speech and the wide-opticed disbelief which was all he could direct to the towering habitat levels of his native planet.
Millions of sparks pressed into close proximity, covering every span of the planet surface. Millions of lives going about their business from one rotation to the next. A triple dozen sparks within one Academy dormitory alone, and the young Guardian swore he could feel every one of them, prickling pings against his sensors in ways that had nothing to do with the longed-for warm press of his cohort, his plates clamped tight to his own frame and bereft of that familiar crushing weight.
Millions of sparks, and his oath sworn duty to protect them. It was a null function equation, an impossible quandary when he was one spark, alone, and he understood now why Wildstrike had insisted, over and over, that he was offduty for the duration of the Academy courses. Even with protocols set to standby it was killing him, one micron at a time, the pull at his spark a sharp ache that only fed into and burned with the automatic threat assessments of environmental errors, cascading margins of loss, millions of sparks he wouldn't be able to save, helplessly calculated every time he let his processor idle.
Venting silently, Ironhide curled onto his side, back plates flaring to shift armor density around his struts. It was a glitch. There was no environmental failure, nothing to fix or combat, but he couldn't convince the endless circles of his processor threads. Recharge wasn't possible and it was only the second rotation of a secondary education course that would stretch orns. He tucked his helm down against his knee joints, hydraulics creaking tightly, and reflected grimly that he also now understood Rampart's parting gift of a handful of circuit speeders - he wasn't sure how long his systems could go without a recharge cycle, but he suspected he was going to find out.