Heart Drive

"When a spark comes online, there is great joy. When one is extinguished... the universe weeps."
Rhinox, Beast Wars

A character with a Heart Drive has an organ, crystal, crystal organ (so to speak) or actual hardware inside their body that contains the very self of the character. The Heart Drive is in this sense similar to a Soul Jar: it contains (or, in some cases, is) the character's soul (or near enough that it makes no difference), and as long as it remains undamaged grants a measure of Immortality. Unlike a Soul Jar, as long as the Heart Drive is outside the body the character is essentially dead, though they might remain awake and unable to take action inside the Heart Drive. Some Heart Drives can even be casually removed, stored, and reinserted to the body... or simply a body... and return the character back to life as if nothing happened.

If this is sounding a lot like a computer's Hard Drive, that's because it usually is one to many robot characters. Sort of like a cybernetic equivalent to a Brain in a Jar. Thanks to their Heart Drive, most robots can pull off Good Thing You Can Rebuild or just transfer to a Body Backup Drive. This is true for non-technology-based Heart Drives as well: characters whose intelligence is housed in a Heart Drive are also usually Made of Iron, able to shrug off injuries that would make mortal characters pass out. Some Heart Drives also have a built-in Healing Factor to help repair or even rebuild their body. At the extreme, they may consider all non-fatal damage trivial... the down side is it also creates a gigantic Weak Point for enemies to easily kill the character. That is, unless the character has the foresight to hide it beneath body armor.

One scary aspect of the Heart Drive is it can be a combination of Body Snatcher, The Symbiote and Artifact of Doom. If it grafts itself onto another animal/character/clone body, the Heart Drive will take over the mind and sometimes even "mutate" it into its original form.

Subtrope of Immortality Inducer. Compare Cranial Processing Unit.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Desty Nova has one in Battle Angel Alita. It's his brain chip, and also he has a spare.
  • Cell's core in Dragon Ball Z. Also Android 16's head — even after the rest of his entire body was destroyed, he functioned well enough, and he likely could've been rebuilt. Then Cell crushed 16's head.
  • Blood seals in Fullmetal Alchemist. The armor can be chopped to ribbons, but as long as the seal is undamaged, you're fine. But smudge it with a finger, and you're fucked. How does it work in the rain? The philosopher's stones themselves also count — when a homunculus had its stone ripped out, the homunculus disintegrated and then reformed around the stone.
  • In the Ghost in the Shell universe, thanks to the advances of cybernetics, the human brain has come to approach a Heart Drive: people with full body replacement can simply have their brains moved to a new cyborg body. This happens to Major Kusanagi in the original 1995 film and the first Stand Alone Complex series. The very first episode of Stand Alone Complex also shows how a person's brain can be stolen and replaced with somebody else's, if the victim isn't careful about basic security measures — in this case, a Minister swapping his brains with a Geisha-robot for a bit of drunken fun when there's a foreign spy about.
  • Another example is the Guyver. If the suit's core is intact, its user can be ground to powder and the unit will simply regenerate him, conservation of matter be damned. But crack it, and the Guyver will actually eat you alive.
  • One of the Akatsuki members (it's Sasori) in Naruto; this is why the person's "true form" never seems to physically age.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion uses the crystalline jewel organ version with its Angels — and the Evas themselves, as shown in episode 19. In Rebuild of Evangelion 2.0, Unit 02's core is physically removed at one point while the Eva is in cryofreeze. The original series implies that cores can be freely swapped between the production models. Unit 01, however, appears to have a partially overgrown non-removable core.
  • Sailor Moon has the Pure Heart Crystals and the Star Seeds (plus Sailor Crystals which are a subtype of Star Seed specific to the Sailor Senshi).
  • The Medals for the eponymous Medabots.
  • Dai-Guard used Heart Drives called "fractal knots" in their giant monsters of the week.
  • The giant robots in Bokurano remain operational as long as a white, bulbous construct located inside them remains intact. Later it's revealed that it's not the destruction of the core that ends the game, but the death of the human pilot inside it.
  • In The Big O, when Dorothy's memory circuits are removed, it's essentially an irreversible coma. Worse yet, even if the disc was retrieved, there's no one alive who can repair the drive. Fortunately, this turns out to be somewhat of a subversion. Dorothy is somehow able to start moving without it, prompting Beck to ask, "How can you function with no memory? Do you actually know who you are?
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the Magical Girls' "Soul Gems" are exactly that.
  • Mod Souls in Bleach are actually small pills that contain souls. If you put them in a dead or soulless body (constructed body or one whose owner is missing), or even a humanoid stuffed toy, they come alive. No matter how much damage the body suffers, they can simply be put in another body and they'll be fine.
  • The Soul Drive of SD Gundam Force. This is the MacGuffin that enables Captain to have his Eleventh Hour Superpower, thanks to his bond of friendship with Shute. When it gets stolen he goes into a comatose state. Commander Sazabi also has one, and tries to convince the Captain to spare him upon his defeat by claiming that they are Not So Different because of this. It doesn't work.
    Kao Lyn: Without his Soul Drive, Captain is out of control of his functions! Though he may move or speak, he's like a sleepwalker! He can't wake up!
  • Union Cores from Arpeggio of Blue Steel are the essential component of the Fleet of Fog. Even if their neigh-invulnerable ship bodies are destroyed, as long as the core survives they can come back. They're entirely helpless without a supply of Nanomachines to form a body out of however, as Kirishima and Haguro have both learned the hard way.
  • The Maiden Circuits in Saber Marionette J. This special piece of hardware gives the Marionettes (and Saber Dolls) emotions and contains their personality. If removed or damaged, they become robotic and essentially lifeless. The Maiden Circuits are actually a device in three parts, meant to be matured and then combined together to create an artificial personality based on the creator. They were created to serve as a control device, to pacify the rogue AI that nearly wiped out humanity centuries ago and holds the only surviving human female prisoner....

  • In most depictions of the Metal Men, their bodies are literally just solid blocks of Gold, Iron, Tin, etc. animated by a softball-sized spherical device called a responsometer, which is sentient and can manipulate the surrounding metal. If the device is yoinked out of their bodies, their bodies become inanimate.
  • In the Mega Man comics, the integrated circuit chip is the source of a robot's personality. As long as the IC isn't destroyed Robot Masters can be rebuilt any number of times, but if it is damaged beyond repair then that robot is basically dead, as the chips' complexity makes them near impossible to recreate.

    Fan Fiction 

  • Brain in a Jar Cain in RoboCop 2 while he's in the "Robocop 2" body.
  • Cherry 2000. Robots have their personality stored in a memory chip that can be removed and reinserted in another robot of the same type. The protagonist spends the entire movie trying to find a new body for his robot.
  • In Frankenstein Conquers The World, its said that Frankenstein's heart is immortal and can regrow his body due partly to his creation and partly due to surviving and being mutated by one of the H-Bomb attacks on Japan. While his cells can grow into a new monster, his heart is the only part that seems able to regenerate into something human-like.
  • Terminator units in Terminator series have these. With exception of the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and possibly the very early model T-1s in Terminator Salvation that seemed to lack any personality at all.
  • In the live-action Inspector Gadget movie, Gadget is captured by the villain who proceeds to remove the computer chip that amplifies his emotions to allow his body to function, causing him to shut down. However, Gadget later summons enough Heroic Resolve to overcome this and reactivate himself.
  • WALL•E's main processor chip could be defined as this, since he temporarily loses his personality when EVE gives him the life-saving overhaul near the end of the movie.
  • I, Robot has the reveal that Sonny not only possesses a positronic brain, but a secondary brain in his chest which allows him to ignore the three laws. The redundant one would appear to be a mechanical "soul" of sorts.
  • In Big Hero 6 Baymax's "Tadashi chip" contains his medical programming and pretty much all of his personality. When it's removed and all that's in him is the karate chip Hiro added to him he is pretty much a mindless automaton. And the Tadashi chip allows him to be rebuilt after his Heroic Sacrifice
  • In The Last Witch Hunter, the witch's life is in her heart, meaning that to kill the witch, one has to destroy the heart, otherwise it can be used to bring her back to life.

  • In Eragon, Dragons have Eldunari which is essentially their souls. A dragon can expel their Eldunari but remain in control of their bodies. When their bodies die their consciousness is transferred to the Eldunari, where it remains until someone destroys it.
  • In Greg Egan's short story Learning To Be Me, everyone has a tiny neural network computer implanted into their brain. As the people grow, the computer constantly corrects itself to mimic their brain's responses. At a certain age, many people choose to remove their brains, making the tiny computer this trope.
    • Egan revisits this trope often. His short story Chaff and novels Diaspora, and Schild's Ladder all have variations on this theme.
  • In the Dragoncrown War series, Big Bad Chytrine has a soulstone because she's half-dragon, and dragons can naturally create them. However, in order to protect it, she swallowed it, making it part of her being and rendering her nearly impossible to kill unless her dragon form is torn open and someone pulls it out.
  • In Charles Stross's Saturn's Children, most robots have a personality chip to backup their memories/personalities. This can be used to keep them alive by transferring their mind to another body or to learn from dead "siblings." "Wearing" the chip of another robot for too long however can lead to their personality usurping the original owner's and as a back up can take months or years to be fully complete destroying another robot's personality chip is a good way of ensuring they behave themselves.
  • In the Takeshi Kovacs series people are normally implanted with a "cortical stack" at birth that acts as a backup hard drive for the brain. When one dies it can be removed and downloaded into a new body.
  • In Safehold, while Merlin's body can be destroyed, his mind, memories and consciousness are locked in a spherical computer about the size of a fist, hidden in his torso behind protection strong enough to withstand pretty much everything short of being ground zero for a nuclear strike. If the body is destroyed, this can still survive and be plugged into either a new PICA or a VR unit.

    Live Action TV 
  • A variant occurs in Star Trek: Deep Space 9 when a criminal has his brain copied to a microchip, which he embeds into Dr. Bashir's skin. This allows him to take over Bashir's body.
  • Cameron, like all other terminators, has one in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
  • On Knight Rider, KITT's personality is contained in his CPU, which can be removed from the car. In one episode, when his CPU is removed from his car body by the villains, he's installed into a portable TV for safekeeping.
  • The Greeed in Kamen Rider OOO are revealed to store their consciousness in just one of the nine Core Medals that make up their bodies. If that medal is broken or destroyed, they're just a pile of medals, devoid of consciousness or life. Interestingly, the Bird Greeed formed from Ankh's remaining Core Medals develops sentience on its own, implying that perhaps any Core Medal can become a Heart Drive, given the right conditions.
  • Doctor Who. Used for a Cliff Hanger reveal in "Four to Doomsday". A supposedly human character opens himself up to reveal circuitry where flesh and bone should be.
    "This is not me. (takes out chip) This is me."

    Tabletop RPG 
  • Paranoia supplement Acute Paranoia, section "Playing Robots". In Alpha Complex a robot's brain (CPU) can be removed and inserted in another robot. One function of a Troubleshooter team's Robot Officer is to recover the CPUs of damaged robots.
  • Eclipse Phase borrows the cortical stack concept from Altered Carbon.
  • 1E Mutants & Masterminds villain, The Atomic Brain, functions as this with the eponymous radioactive brain being the bit which gets transferred from one robot body to another.
  • The Raksha of Exalted have an odd version of this that is somewhere between a Heart Drive and a Soul Jar. All Shaped Raksha form a heart grace when they take a solid form, and if another person possesses it they can control the others actions and destroying the heart grace is one of the few ways to permanently kill a Raksha. The other virtues (compassion, conviction, temperance, and valor, the Exalted game system's main character traits) can also be made into physical objects, though they are much less important, relatively speaking. If they're destroyed or possessed by another it only prevents the Raksha in question from using the emotion attached to that grace, or using that emotion to feed until it grows back. The confusing part is that in most cases a Raksha's apparent physical body is closer to a projection of their graces rather than a true physical form.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, an Eldar's Waystone is primarily a Soul Jar that keeps his or her spirit from being consumed by Slaanesh so that it can be safely stored in a craftworld's Infinity Circuit, but they can also function as Heart Drives. If placed in a Wraithguard or Wraithlord, the Waystone will animate the construct so that the fallen warrior can fight on in a new body, and in the Farseer novel an Eldar takes over the body of a human wearing his Waystone.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, Karn the Silver Golem was granted sentience when Urza inserted Xantcha's heartstone into the golem. This would eventually have dire consequences, since said stone was of Phyrexian origin and thus carried a trace of Phyrexian oil. Even a single drop of the oil would be enough to begin the gradual phyresis of an entire plane — which is exactly what happened to Mirrodin, the artificial plane Karn created, leading to its rebirth as New Phyrexia.

  • The mini-comic packaged with Masters of the Universe character Roboto indicates that Man-at-Arms installed a heartnote  that gave him a personality and kept evildoers from harnessing his abilities for evil (until Skeletor literally pulled Roboto's heart out). The translucent torso on the action figure even showed a flat plastic heart oscillating up and down as his gears turned.

    Video Games 

  • The demons of Heartcore possess crystaline objects dubbed Heartcores. Second-generation demons inherit their Heartcores from one of their "parent" demons (such as the protagonist Ame possessing the Heartcore of her mother Lilith, or Carval and his "father" Volaster). A Heartcore is essentially a corrupted human heart, and demons must feed on them to survive (lest they be rendered unambulatory husks). They are also one of a demon's two Achilles' Heel s, the other being their brain,
  • Robots in Gunnerkrigg Court function this way. In particular, Robot S13's original body was melted down and made into paperclips; his CPU was preserved and placed in a new body, so he was fine.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • One of the more prominent examples would be the concepts of sparks in the Transformers' universe. Sparks are basically a combination of the bot's heart and soul, as they are dead without one, and when it is "extinguished", the spark goes to become one with the Matrix. Originally introduced in Beast Wars, this is possibly the most enduring part of the show's mythology, since it has appeared in every subsequent incarnation of Transformers, including the live-action movies.
    • Before this was introduced, one mini-arc in the the comics had Optimus Prime's brain and soul backed up on a 5-inch floppy disk.
    • The concept first originated in an early draft script of Transformers: The Movie, where it is referred to as a "Life Spark". Later comic book writers mistaken the term as the name of a Decepticon who became Cyclonus.
    • As far back as season two of G1, Starscream was able to build new Transformers out of old vehicles, using the "personalities" of former Decepticon criminals that were "imprisoned" in drives to form the Combaticons, who make up Bruticus.
  • In the Futurama episode "How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back," Bender has his personality downloaded onto a floppy disk, which renders him "quiet, and helpful". However, in the season six episode "Lethal Inspection," Bender discovers that he can't simply download to a different body in case his is destroyed, because he was built without a back-up unit. So if his body is destroyed, so is he. Though, being a robot, he's practically invincible, so he doesn't have too much to worry about.
  • Frosty the Snowman's magic hat. "Happy birthday!"
  • Several scripted but unproduced episodes of Invader Zim were to have expanded on the functions of the PAK, the backpack device all Irkens wear. One of them, "Ten Minutes to Doom", contained this line:
    Dib: This device... it is Zim. It's his brain and his life support. That means his body is just... something to carry his PAK around.
  • The Gems in Steven Universe are exactly what their name indicates: the only fundamental part of them is the jewel. If their body is heavily damaged, their souls retreat into their Gems for a while until they can form a new one; if the Gem is damaged or corrupted, however, the results are far more severe. A destroyed Gem equals death. Incidentally this is also why Rose Quartz suffered Death by Childbirth. The only way she could give birth to Steven was by giving her jewel to him. Her existence ended when his began. Aside from her powers and her love, it does not seem like anything else of Rose remains in Steve.
  • In TRON: Uprising, a program's Identity Disc holds and records all the memories and experiences of their owner. However, if a program loses their Identity Disc, then they slowly start to lose their memory, and eventually become a 'stray'.