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You have vital data so dangerous that there must be absolutely no chance of it falling into the wrong hands. Where do you hide that data?

You bury it in someone's mind.

Burying data in a person's subconscious as a result of a post-hypnotic suggestion is a common MacGuffin in sci-fi and spy thrillers. Very often, the person will have no idea of what he's carrying around, usually by design. Also expect that the person will be someone you'd least suspect. Could be a child or a fool; it could even be the hero who was unaware that he was carrying what he sought all along. Frequently used to create the Manchurian Agent.

Compare the various amnesia tropes, such as Criminal Amnesiac and Easy Amnesia. See also Neural Implanting, another method by which this can be done, and also Memory Jar. Contrast Alternate Identity Amnesia.

May result in My Skull Runneth Over. This may be the result of a time delayed Exposition Beam. If you're doing it to yourself, it's usually part of a Memory Gambit.


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    Comic Books 
  • Star Trek: Early Voyages: In "Immortal Wounds", Ambassador Toluk determines after mind melding with Dr. Boyce that three members of a psi-adept species called the Julthans or Jultha Free Men transferred their consciousness or siras into Boyce many years earlier when he was a young medic. When their shuttle crashed on the remote medical research outpost to which he was assigned, the Julthans made physical contact with Boyce just before they died. It was brief but there was nevertheless sufficient time to make the transfer. The siras eventually went insane due to the confusion and pain that they experienced. When Dr. Boyce encountered Narten Phayn Drexler, the leader of the Orion raiders that destroyed their colony, the Julthans took control of Dr. Boyce and killed Drexler with a lethal injection of metrazene.

    Fan Fiction 
  • In Honor Trip, Enma Daiou has a surprisingly labyrinthine mind that not even Future Cell could crack to obtain knowledge of Otherworld's various barriers.
  • In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, Mikuru keeps a collection of recorded memories for reference when she has to return to her own time. Technically, Haruhi does this to herself, locking herself out of the knowledge of her own powers, complete with key.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The 39 Steps (1935): The top-secret information the bad guys are trying to smuggle out of the country is hidden in the mind of the "Memory Man", a showman who has the ability to take in such information.
  • Sebastian Rook does this on himself in Cypher. He overwrote his own personality so he could become the meekly protagonist Morgan Sullivan and steal a specific data file from the vault of a MegaCorp, then reset himself.
  • A literal case in Elysium. After Greg Carlyle uploads the reboot code to the space station of the same name to an implant in his brain, encrypts the program, and smashes the computer it came from, several of the characters are feverishly after that code when the protagonist Max steals it from Carlyle, so that the people on Earth can be allowed to go to the station. Unfortunately, the encryption software kills whoever holds the item after transfer, and once it's modified at the end, Max dies.
  • Flight of the Navigator is about a little boy who has all sorts of star charts from aliens temporarily stored in his brain, and is later picked up for retrieval when the alien robot accidentally loses its own copies.
  • The entire mission in Inception is to do exactly this, though instead of information, the goal is to implant an idea. Browning also suggests that Fischer Sr. may have done this to his son in the first dream layer.
  • The protagonist of Johnny Mnemonic is a Courier who carries data securely in a cranial implant.
  • The first half of Operation Double 007 is spent chasing after a woman who had been given sensitive information by a deceased operative. The trick is, it had been given to her while she was under a certain kind of deep hypnosis, and can only be retrieved if she is put back under in the exact same way.
  • In Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, the viewers discover that at the end of the previous movie, Spock placed his soul in Doctor McCoy just before his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • In Total Recall (2012), Quaid learns that he has the global shutdown codes for the Synth army locked away in his head from his time as Hauser, and must get this back to the Resistance. It turns out that it's actually a tracking signal for Cohaagen to follow back to the resistance base.

  • In Abarat, an important key is hidden in Candy's mind, despite its apparently being a physical object.
  • In Animorphs, Elfangor sends an Exposition Beam to Tobias, possibly also including his hirac delest (the plot of The Andalite Chronicles) and some sort of Genetic Memory; Tobias unlocks the memory when he morphs Ax, but it's never established if he got the hirac delest.
  • Index Librorum Prohibitorum from A Certain Magical Index received her name from the fact that she was forced (using her photographic memory) to memorize 103,000 magical grimoires.
  • In Citizen of the Galaxy, just before he's captured and executed Baslim hypnotizes his foster son Thorby into memorizing a coded final report to the Space Police, as well as a message to a ship's captain to help Thorby escape off-planet.
  • The distrans of the Dune universe is used to encode messages in the voices of bats and birds. It can be used on humans, but it is frowned upon. So naturally both the protagonists and antagonists make use of human distrans.
  • The Amnesia Arc in Eighth Doctor Adventures (and the EDA series itself) ends with the revelation that the Doctor's amnesia was caused by downloading the entire Time Lord matrix into his mind, thereby enabling Gallifrey to be restored from backup at a future date.
  • In Fahrenheit 451, the secret society of readers use Photographic Memory techniques to memorize books so they can be written again once the book-burning government dies in the coming nuclear war.
  • Tracer from Floating Point, being a living A.I. in a digital world, was able to install one of these to help him sort and cross-index his memories. Also quite handy for erasing memories he doesn't find pleasant.
  • Forgotten Realms has its share of memory transfers, but specifically in Return of the Archwizards, the wizard spy drops lots of reconnaissance data (for all the audience knows, it could be centuries worth of examining Sealed Evil in a Can while hiding inside the same can) to another guy because he's dying and it's the only way to save priceless knowledge. The carrier uses this memory only to provoke "I just feel it must be so" insights, even after he understands what's going on (which still makes him so valuable that the dead wizard's boss can neither let him go nor kill him, nor even use outright mind control).
  • Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is about a man whose subconscious is used to store classified data in a cyberpunk future.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy:
    • Zaphod buries the location of the man who rules the universe within his brains.
    • Because in this universe Earth is a supercomputer designed to find the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, all Earthlings have the Question imprinted in their subconscious.
  • In If This Goes On—, Lyle is told he has been given critical information that he has to get to La RĂ©sistance. When he gets there he is put under anesthesia to extract the information. He later asks one of the Resistance scientists what was the nature of the "really important" message. He is disappointed when he is told that it was just lots of routine information. The scientist realizes he made a mistake, the man did have very important information. He also had his resistance credentials, "If they hadn't checked out, you would never have woken up."
  • In The Jennifer Morgue, Bob Howard has the briefing for the next stage of his mission implanted this way. Unfortunately the circumstances change halfway through the book, so thanks to this trope Bob is forced to endure an Info Dump that's no longer relevant.
  • In Piers Anthony's Macroscope, Brad Carpenter hides information about Schon inside Afra Summerfield's mind.
  • In Man Walks Into A Room, a group of scientists attempt to implant a memory from one person into the protagonist's brain. The memory itself, to the scientists, is only important in that it's a strong, easily distinguished, distinctive memory, not in terms of its content: a nuclear weapons test occurring too close to a group of soldiers.
  • From Midnight at the Well of Souls: Vardia Diplo 1261 is, for the most part, a human cassette reel — a Neuro-Vault with legs. A message is encoded in her head, to be shuttled to another planet's embassy, where the vault is unlocked, and she's basically written over with the base "Diplo program".
  • This is pretty much the entire premise of One of Us by Michael Marshall Smith. The main character makes his living storing memories that others want to get rid of temporarily — for instance, a businessman about to screw over his partner hands over a memory of a moral lesson from his father. (Permanently destroying a memory screws up the Force.) Unfortunately for him, someone figures out that this can work as Laser-Guided Amnesia for the giver, and that the Big Bad only wants to kill anyone who remembers a particular secret.
  • Rod Allbright Alien Adventures: The climax of book 3 (The Search for Snout) reveals that the main character has a secret piece of data in his brain that will allow the villain to literally destroy time.
  • Sword of Truth:
    • Richard's adoptive father had him memorise a book, destroying it after he was satisfied that Richard could recite it verbatim. The first book of the series revolves around the Big Bad's attempts to extract this information from him.
    • There is also another example when Richard prevents himself from going fully mad due to Cold-Blooded Torture by locking away the core of his personality.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Harper 2.0 of Andromeda Harper gets the largest library in the universe downloaded into his brain. This slowly begins to burn up his brain until he gets rid of it. It's used for a Continuity Nod later when trying to remember where he hid some of the data.
  • Blake's 7: The location of Star One (the Master Computer that runs the Terran Federation) is buried in the mind of the King's Fool on a primitive planet.
  • This is the whole premise of Chuck — the Intersect is an incredibly comprehensive espionage database so important that it can't be trusted to a computer (or, apparently, spread among many computers), so it's uploaded to the mind of a master-spy. Unless it should accidentally be uploaded into that master-spy's college roommate...
  • Doctor Who: Donna Noble is a variation on this trope. She has Time Lord knowledge embedded in her brain, and for her own well-being she had to lose all her memories of the time spent with the Doctor. If she were ever allowed to remember him or her adventures all over the universe, it would destroy her.
  • Played for three years and The Movie of incredible dramatic effect in Farscape. John Crichton has the secret to wormhole technology buried in his mind by Sufficiently Advanced Aliens. The idea is that John doesn't know he has this dangerous information (which could be used to alter reality or create a Doomsday Device) but his subconscious knowledge will give him an 'instinct' for wormholes that will help him get back to Earth. Unfortunately this fact is uncovered by the Big Bad Scorpius, who spends the rest of the series trying to rip the knowledge from Crichton's head.
  • Firefly: River Tam. In this case, it turns out to have been entirely accidental, and those whom the information concerns want to keep it under wraps.
  • In Fringe, William Bell removed pieces of Walter's brain and put them into other people's brains in order to prevent information about how to get to the other universe from falling into the wrong hands.
  • Severance (2022) centers on a company whose employees elect to have these surgically implanted. While at work, they have no memory of their home lives and vice-versa.
  • Stargate SG-1: On two separate occasions, O'Neill gets his head packed full of deadly amounts of Lost Wisdom from the Ancients, barely surviving long enough to get it extracted by the Asgard.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Eclipse Phase: "Hidden Knowledge" psychosurgery conceals information somewhere in a character's mind until released with a trigger word. Or more psychosurgery.
  • Shadowrun has the "Data lock" implant, which is clearly a Shout-Out to Johnny Mnemonic.
  • In Vampire: The Requiem, a vampire can learn to conceal information inside a messenger's blood.

    Video Games 
  • Goal from Deponia stores some important codes along with her consciousness in her implant.
  • In Galerians, the protagonist and Macguffin Girl heroine have programs stashed in their heads by their parents. The programs are the key to destroying an A.I their fathers created which slipped its leash to supplant the human race with its own creations.
  • Kingdom Hearts has Sora, whose memories are nearly constantly used for this.
  • It's commonly agreed that the player character in Marathon Infinity smuggles Durandal across timelines within his own brain toward the end of the game.
  • Mass Effect:
    • In the first game, Matriarch Benezia does this to herself to avoid being completely indoctrinated. It works long enough for her to give vital information to the protagonists, before the indoctrination reasserts itself.
    • Due to both the Prothean Beacon and the Cipher, Shepard has the experience and collective knowledge of the entire Prothean race implanted within their subconscious mind, which leads them eventually to Ilos. It's also the key to waking Javik in Mass Effect 3.
  • Asimov, the hero of Mr. Robot, saves his friends from being permanently scrapped by downloading their brainmaps into his system. Conveniently enough, this is also how you add members to your party for hacking missions.
  • In Perfect Dark Zero, Jack Dark rescues scientist Nathan Ziegler and recovers classified data. Ziegler then downloads that data into Jack's brain before dying, to keep it out of the hands of dataDyne.
  • Jake in the SNES Shadowrun game has some sensitive files in his head computer, which starts off locked until an attempt to repair it sets off a Cortex Bomb. This is, of course, perfectly normal within the confines of the Tabletop Game. It's implied that Jake did not undergo the procedure willingly, as a character met earlier on notes that the head computer and datajack are new additions, and as a shaman, he wouldn't be likely to add cyberware in the first place. Jake himself has complete amnesia, though.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • A variant in Knights of the Old Republic. Your character was getting Force visions and flashbacks of an allegedly-dead Sith Lord named Revan, leading both Bastila and themselves to Star Maps that will reveal the location of the Star Forge. However, it turns out that Revan isn't as dead as everyone thought.
    • A relatively minor one, galactically speaking, is Consular companion Felix Iresso in Star Wars: The Old Republic. A Force-insensitive Republic grunt, he and his buddy were captured by the Sith and had a Sith holocron forcibly downloaded into their heads because the crazy Darth did not want to share the contents with the rest of the class. Iresso's pal went insane, but Iresso seems relatively normal. No, he can't access the contents, and doesn't much want to.
  • Xenosaga:
    • Episode III uses this in an interesting way. The Godwin sisters hold the two parts of the unlock code which opens the Zohar Emulator storage. Both are aware of this, and didn't require any messy mind tricks — their minds already had uplink ports from their previous "jobs" before the Durandal.
    • The Realian MOMO has the politically and functionally dangerous Y-Data stored in her head.
    • Xenosaga does this a lot, actually; Canaan, another Realian, likewise has part of the Y-Data dropped into his head; he's blocked from accessing it, which makes him very grumpy. He spends the better part of fifteen years trying to get it out and failing.

  • Homestuck: The genetic code for the creation of a first guardian is locked away within the minds of one or more players, who end up writing it on their walls and in a book. It winds up being unlocked by some sort of important event. In the kid's session, Rose wrote it in one of her journals, while in the troll's session it was unlocked via the infamous Team Charge debacle, and authored by Tavros, Aradia, Vriska, Terezi, and a doomed timeline Gamzee, who wrote it in their FLARPing manuals and Karkat's ~ATH book.
  • The Order of the Stick: Redcloak appears convinced the paladins of the Sapphire Guard had pulled this, though he seems to have been wrong. Redcloak himself has his own Neuro-Vault with the divine part of the ritual to 'control', really 'transfer control' of the Gate's position to his deity, imparted to him by the Red Mantle. It qualifies as it was never commited to paper. It's not that far of a stretch for him to expect opposing forces to use the same kind of trick. Torturing O'Chul for information was also Redcloak's excuse for staying in Azure City.
  • In Schlock Mercenary, the eponymous carbosilicate amorph pulls one of these: since his entire body acts as a "brain", forming a neuro-vault is as simple as collecting all the tissue that stores the information and scooping it out for safekeeping.

    Western Animation 
  • In Beast Wars, Blackarachnia purposely downloads the data on the golden disks, which were stolen by Dinobot, and which contain the entry code to the Ark into her own brain and destroys the computer containing the original copy so that Megatron can't use it.
  • Code Lyoko: Franz Hopper hid the "keys to Lyoko" that XANA would need to escape inside himself and Aelita.
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero: In "There's No Place Like Springfield", plans for a deadly super-weapon are implanted into Shipwreck's head, and can only be retrieved if a certain code word is spoken to him. Cobra conducts an elaborate ruse to try and figure it out. Even then, the code turns out to be a code phrase ("Frogs in Wintertime").