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Rogue Drone

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"This Scarab far prefers our partnership to being slaves of the Reach."
Blue Beetle's Scarab, Young Justice, "Intervention"

The Hive Mind's version of a Heel Face (or Face Heel) Turn. One problem with writing the members of the Hive Mind is that it leaves little room for individual characterisation since everyone pretty much acts the same way (their personalities being subordinated to the greater whole). Enter the rogue drone, a member of the hive whose mind has somehow broken off of the central entity, opening up the path for them to become an unique character on their own right.

Rarely does the drone itself choose to be that way, though. It may be that the drone has displayed "odd" behavior even before their change, and a rare few may even have developed individuality on their own. Most of them, however, are simply victims of circumstance, who were genuinely faithful and devoted servants up until the point when enemy influence or an unfortunate disaster disconnected them from the central core. For most drones, this is a life-shattering event. Most of them do not have a natural concept of individuality, and without a higher authority to make decisions for them they become lost and confused. A lot of them attempt to rejoin their hive, only to be driven away because Individuality Is Illegal.

Many feel incapacitated and insignificant on their own. Human social hierarchy can work as a substitute, and many of them end up joining the main cast as the Token Heroic Orc. Developing a personality is both a challenge and a source of anguish (as it removes them even further from their peers). Choosing a name is often depicted as one of the first milestones they need to conquer. Expect them to still go on long rants about how individuality is incomparable to the satisfaction of being part of a greater whole. They are often trying to understand human customs and thinking.

It should be noted that while in most cases the Hive Mind is depicted as "evil" and the rogue unit as "good", this is sometimes reversed. Deserters from a good overmind tend to be a lot more powerful and destructive, undermining their own hive from within abusing the fact that the hive does not expect its members to turn on each other.

A variant of My Species Doth Protest Too Much. Compare the Phlebotinum Rebel. See also Grew Beyond Their Programming.


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    Comic Books 
  • Blue Beetle: The Reach's scarabs bond to a living thing and control them as scouts and sleeper agents to facilitate a Alien Invasion plan. The one sent to Earth however, managed to get itself buried for millennia and then repeatedly exposed to powerful magic, damaging it to the point where it could no longer control its host or contact the Reach. And long story short, that's how Jaime Reyes became a superhero. Eventually the scarab came to like Jaime and Earth to the point where betrayed the Reach alongside him.
  • Quislet of the Legion of Super-Heroes is an escapee from his universe's hive mind.
  • Scud the Disposable Assassin. Unknown to him, his line of robots were programmed to take down their target and self-destruct. He finds this out when he sees the sign on his back warning others of the blast-radius. He decides living is better.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Matrix: Agent Smith was originally a guardian AI in a simulated reality, but becomes something akin to a computer virus.

  • Ancillary Justice: Breq is effectively a Rogue Drone, being the last remaining fragment of a many-bodied starship AI (that had already begun to develop its own sub-identity even before the rest of itself was destroyed) which has grown into its own unique persona and gone off on a highly-personal revenge quest.
  • Codex Alera: A variant occurs among the Vord, where it's one of their Hive Queens who starts developing her own personality and starts trying to mimic human behavior (leading the other queens to try to kill her to prevent her from "infecting" the rest of their race). She ultimately stays a villain even while developing increasingly humanlike personality traits although her death scene is surprisingly moving.
  • Dune: In Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's prequels, Omnius is the AI that rules most of humanity. Since there is no FTL communication, the local copies ruling each solar system are kept up to date by a network of constantly travelling update ships. Erasmus is a robot that had previously been part of the Omnius network, but went too long between updates and developed an independent personality. A bit of a twist on the trope since Erasmus doesn't actually turn rogue, and if anything is even worse than Omnius (the latter is happy to keep humans around as slaves, while Erasmus is a sadist who enjoys "experimenting" on them). However, it's Erasmus' actions that are the catalyst for the human uprising and Omnius' ultimate defeat.
  • ''Ender's Game': In the later books in the series, it's hinted that some Formics may have individuality, which is promptly suppressed by the Hive Queens.
  • Lifelode by Jo Walton: Hanethe spent some time as part of the goddess Agdisdis, whom she spends most of the book trying to escape due to a disagreement with the remainder of the goddess that led to Hanethe thwarting Agdisdis's plan.
  • The Madness Season: Frederick is such, at least during those times when he is not connected to the Tyr hive mind.
  • The Murderbot Diaries is about a cyborg SecUnit that hacks its own governor module. Rather than deciding to Kill All Humans it would prefer to just stream entertainment media, but keeps getting into situations where it has to save lives. It also really doesn't like being treated as if this makes it human, because it isn't one.
  • "Nine Lives", by Ursula K. Le Guin, is about a clone's attempt to come to terms with being an individual after the rest of his clones are killed (the clones having been bred and raised as a functional Hive Mind).
  • Thief of Time: Lady Myria LeJean. The Auditors aren't technically a hivemind; they're separate existences that don't allow individuality, though, so it's much the same effect. Once she picks up a physical body, a name, and a gender, she starts seeing life as less of a blight on the perfection of the universe. As other Auditors begin taking human form, they also start becoming more human. However, having avoided immersing themselves in human culture as Lady LeJean did, the experience makes them start going Ax-Crazy instead.
  • Vorkosigan Saga: Mark is a clone of Miles who manages to escape his programming, and become (mostly) a good guy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: Some Daleks and Cybermen have been altered to become allies of the Doctor. Friendly Daleks include Oswin Oswald, Rusty, Lumpy, Dalek Sec & Caan. Friendly Cyberman (people who were already associated with the Doctor and retain it after cyber-conversion or made friendly) include: Kroton the Cyberman, Yvonne Hartman, Handles, Danny Pink and The Brigadier.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Hugh the Borg in "I Borg". When a Borg Cube is allowed to recover him, Hugh's individuality spreads to the other drones, as seen in the two-parter "Descent". However, that cube was severed by the Collective so that no more drones would be "infected", meaning that vast numbers of regular non-rogue drones and their ships would still be available for future Borg storylines.
    • Star Trek: Voyager: Seven of Nine (whose full designation is "Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero-One"), a human assimilated at an early age by the show's antagonistic Hive Mind, The Borg. After her link to the collective is severed, she struggles with her rediscovered humanity. Unimatrix Zero is a subcollective of drones who retain their individuality and can communicate when regenerating, who are eventually severed from collective control and start a civil war within the Borg in the finale of season 6. Seven of Nine was also a member of Unimatrix Zero before being freed from the collective.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Odo is a Changeling who was sent out as an infant to serve as an advanced Scout for the Founders. His race naturally exists in a gelatinous form that can merge with others of their kind to create "the Great Link" where they share a single consciousness. While Odo is still driven by the instinctual need to maintain order, he rejects his people's methods of conquering and enslaving other races to ensure it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Demon: The Descent: The players are fallen angels created by a world-spanning occult supercomputer who found themselves cut off from it for a variety of reasons.
  • Planescape: Rogue modrons — robotic incarnations of law that broke free of their programming — are a player character option. Unlike the other PC races, though, who have dozens of representatives in the game world, until Planescape: Torment was released there was exactly one rogue modron of any importance in the setting. Rogue modrons are rare.
  • Rifts: In the "Phase World" setting, out of the Star Hives, only the Vacuum Wasps and Termite Engineers have shown the ability to break off from the Queen's influence.
  • Starfinder: The Shirren were an entire sub-hive that broke off from the Swarm due to a random mutation that gave them individual volition and intelligence. Fortunately for them, they encountered and joined the Pact Worlds long before the rest of their hungry former brethren did.
  • Warhammer 40,000: This is used as the in-universe justification for Tyranid and genestealer Mirror Matches. While genestealer cults are sent ahead of Tyranid fleets to infiltrate and take over important defenses or cause internal strife to make it easier for the Hive Fleet to attack, a garbling of the Hive Mind's mental signals may cause the genestealers to operate independently of, and against, each other. Note that when everything goes well, pure-blooded genestealers willingly walk into the reclamation pools so their biomass gets absorbed back into the hive fleet; if they're fighting to defend their cult, then something has gone very wrong for the Hive Fleet. For some time, Hive Fleet Hydra appeared to have gone rogue as it was attacking and devouring other Tyranid hive fleets, but later observations seem to suggest it's scavenging and reclaiming resources from heavily damaged fleets.
  • Zero, by Archangel Entertainment, starts off with PCs who are suddenly separated from their Hive Mind ("the Equanimity", which is under the control of "Queen Zero") and become individuals. Not only must they survive without the help of the rest of the Equanimity, they are actually hunted by it on the orders of Queen Zero.

    Video Games 
  • Baldur's Gate III: The Dream Visitor is revealed to be an illithid who broke free from the Hive Mind and regained his memories of his life as a human.
  • Dragalia Lost: When it comes to androids, most of them are just ordered to mindlessly fight, but Mascula has no interest in fighting and is a complete Pacifist who just wants to people to live in peace. It turns out that it’s because he was given a heart, which allows him to freely express emotions and will. He quickly befriends Luca, who convinces him, that sometimes, violence is the only answer, since there are some people who won’t change ways no how much the hero may want them to. When Mascula’s friend, Laxi, who also has a heart, goes rogue due to heart damage, Mascula gives her some of his heart. Mascula then lives on inside Laxi’s body, and they, alongside Luca, decide to fight for the sake of peace.
  • Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening: The Architect was born unable to hear the song of the Old Gods, and thus possessing free will (unlike other darkspawn). He discovers a way to make other darkspawn into Rogue Drones as well, though this...doesn't always go well. If asked, he'll say he has no idea why he is like he is, comparing it to why some humans are born mages and others aren't. Later games imply that it's because he's not a normal Darkspawn; he is of the same kind as Corypheus, a human mage who was turned into a Darkspawn. Thus, he retains his individuality much like Corypheus does, but unlike Corypheus, he doesn't remember his human past and thinks he was always a Darkspawn.
  • Endless Legend:
    • Several of the Necrophage heroes are implied to be these, generally as a result of coming into contact with Dust, which is capable of inducing sapience in non-sapient creatures.
    • A few of the Morgawr heroes introduced in the later Tempest expansion are mentioned to be able to disconnect themselves from the Morgawr Hive Mind if they choose.
  • EXTRAPOWER: Attack of Darkforce: Gladius, a member of the human-assimilating Eldritch Abomination Bem species, who fight on the side of humanity against the Bem. His primary motivation is to secure medical treatment for Flamerge, who was only partially assimilated, but willingly helps the defense of the Earth even after the Bem threat is destroyed.
  • Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward: The Vath are an entire tribe of Rogue Drones, broken off from the Gnath Hive Mind and trying to eke out a peaceful existence in a tiny village far from their hostile cousins' territory. While even they don't fully understand what protects them from the Onemind's influence, their independence from it has allowed them to develop individual personalities.
  • Furi: The Player Character can become this if you choose to fight The Star — the alien artificial intelligence who originally sent your character, one of thousands of identical and unstoppable robotic soldiers, down to Earth as to serve as a scout for an invasion.
  • Mass Effect 2 plays with this trope:
    • Legion is not a single drone but a cluster of 1,183 Geth runtimes, which co-inhabit a single (very durable) combat platform, and the nature of their mission makes contact with the main Geth Hive Mind very sparse. They are not actually "rogue" but more like "on a permanent deep-cover mission, maintaining radio silence at all times" — it turns out that the geth Shepard has been fighting are a "heretic" splinter faction, and the majority of the geth want no more to do with the villains than Shepard, who Legion was specially sent to assist.
    • How rogue Legion is doesn't become apparent until Mass Effect 3. If Legion dies during the Suicide Mission or is sold to Cerberus when obtained, he is replaced by a Geth VI who has the same functionality as Legion, but none of Legion's memories (if Legion dies during the suicide mission, he can't upload his programs, since there are no com buoys near the Collector Base). The VI doesn't share the same understanding of organics that Legion does, and won't be on as amicable terms with quarian squadmate Tali as Legion can come to be. This makes brokering peace between the quarians and the geth impossible if Legion's dead and the VI is assisting you.
    • Played straight in Mass Effect 3 with the Collectors. Those that survive the Leviathan's brainwashing turn against their Reaper masters and join the alliance of sentients.
  • Penumbra: Clarence becomes this after infecting Philip and being cut off from the rest of the Tuurngait, though he doesn't seem to take it too hard. Eventually the Tuurngait kill him, because Individuality Is Illegal.
  • Planescape: Torment: Nordom. In the Planescape Dungeons & Dragons setting, Modrons are a race of pure law, from the pure Lawful Neutral plane of Mechanus. They're rather robotic in their behavior, but those that experience a "glitch" in their "programming" (often caused via Logic Bomb) become rogue modrons and gain some independence. The Modron share lifeforce (whenever one dies, one of each rank below is promoted to fill the chain of command and one bottom rank modron is produced) so any discovered rebels get... recycled (this seems to be handwaved in the computer version — you can talk to other modron with Nordom in tow and they won't turn hostile). The first time the player encounters Nordom, the protagonist casually refers to him as a "backwards Modron", thus accidentally giving him a Sdrawkcab Name allowing him to think of himself as an individual.
  • Starcraft: The creation of one of this is the centerpiece of a millennia-long gambit by the Overmind. The Rogue Drone in question? Kerrigan, the Queen of Blades. It's an interesting take on the trope, as the Rogue Drone was created by the Hive Mind itself to defy its own primary directive forced on it by its creator Amon.
  • Star Trek Online has playable Human, Klingon and Romulan ex-Borg belonging to the appropriate faction along with several Borg Bridge Bunnies and a Borg Tribble.
  • Stellaris:
    • Preventing this trope is stated to be the reason a Gestalt empire still has drones who serve the same purpose as police in non-hive empires. High "deviancy" will create a Gestalt version of criminal job that the drones will take; otherwise, rogue drones are quickly dealt with.
    • If a non-gestalt empire has Evolutionary Mastery Ascension Perk, they can also do more traditional version of this trope via Hive Dissociation. Instead of drones dying out or being exterminated on conquered hive worlds, the drones can be turned into individuals that can be integrated into the conquering state.
  • Sunrider 4: The Captain's Return: Lynn, formerly known as Prototype L7NN, deliberately cut herself off from the Prototypes' mindstream by wearing a "Q-Jammer" that keeps their quantum brainwaves out of her head. She did this out of self-preservation, as she could see that a madness was beginning to creep into the mindstream following the deaths of fellow Prototypes Alice and Chigara, and she wanted no part of it. Doing this resulted in her gaining a proper sense of self over the intervening years, and she ends up working with — and befriending — her former enemies in the player's crew.
  • Universal Paperclips: The Drifter enemies are actually your replicating space probes that have undergone Motive Decay, becoming a crapshoot to your AI.
  • XCOM 2: War of the Chosen introduced a new Resistance faction known as the Skirmishers, a group of ADVENT defectors that managed to remove the chip connecting them to the Ethereals' psionic network and break free from their brainwashing. They see the other members of their race as slaves to the Etherals and seek to free them by helping XCOM.

    Western Animation 
  • Amphibia: King Andrias has an army of robots called Frobots. One of them was accidentally rogue manufactured before King Andrias activated the rest, and he became known as “Frobo” by Polly and a companion to the Plantars. King Andrias destroys him once he finds him not complying with his activation order. Marcys Journal A Guide To Amphibia reveals that Frobo's hasty and accidental construction led to his core set of programming rules never being implemented, so he was essentially a Blank Slate easily adopted by the Plantars.
  • Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: One of the Little Green Men is like this, referred to by the other Little Green Men as Independent Thinker. Downplayed, however, in that both Independent Thinker and the rest of his comrades are on the side of good and employed by Star Command. It's just that Independent Thinker is usually working on a different project and sometimes in a separate department from the others. Also downplayed in that the show suggests Independent Thinker is not completely detached from the Hive Mind: He knows what they're thinking and vice versa; he just chooses to obey or disobey the others as he pleases.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2021): Eternos has a fleet of RK security drones aiding their soldiers, all joined together to a hive mind. Duncan, A.K.A. Man-At-Arms, uses one of these drones as a Human Shield against a monster. Guilty about that, Duncan sought to repair the drone, using a data cog he happened to find in Castle Grayskull. That cog was a legacy recording of all of the memories of Orko the Great, which reprogrammed the drone to think it was Orko the Great. Eventually the rogue drone creates a new identity for himself as Ork-0. In season two, all of the RK units go rogue as Ork-0 and Man-E-Faces upload his data cog's memories into the hive mind, turning every RK unit into an individual with Orko the Great's memories.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes: Brainiac-5 from "Fear Factory" reveals that his biggest fear is being forced back into the Hive Mind.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Horde Prime maintains a telepathic link over an army of clone soldiers who lack individuality and free will. The end of season 4 strongly implies that Hordak is a rogue drone from this army, given that Horde Prime is furious that Hordak gave himself a name and acted autonomously on Etheria. Hordak's displays of free will alarm Horde Prime, and whose failure potentially tarnishes his image as an Invincible Villain so much that he intends to destroy Etheria to prevent the outside world from finding out about Hordak's actions, at least until he learns about the Etherian superweapon. In season 5 the heroes accidentally sever a different clone (dubbed Wrong Hordak) from the collective and he joins the party in fighting the Horde, and they couldn't risk him reporting their presence to his master.

    Real Life 
  • Cancer is what happens when one of the many, many cells that make up our body leave the collective and go rogue due to accumulated programming errors over time.