"Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in."So you've been working as a secret agent... or for The Mafia... or as an assassin... or for an Evil Overlord... or as a health inspector when you decide it's time for you to retire or defect. Ha! Good luck with that, because once you join a shadowy organization of this sort, you can never leave. If your bosses don't force you to keep working, they'll soon start saying, "He Knows Too Much" and making plans for your elimination. This normally only happens in villainous organisations, so the victim is either a villain or an antihero. Expect Retirony and a Contract on the Hitman to follow. If it doesn't, then the author may drop a bridge on you just to prove that crime doesn't pay. Depending on genre, one solution is to become a One-Man Army and simply destroy the former organization. One would think that after having half (or even a third or a tenth) of their forces destroyed they'd get the point and just leave him alone, but they never do. The typical route taken is that you fight your way out, but other solutions include killing off your bosses to put the organization in disarray, or faking your own death. A subtrope of In It For Life. See also Mandatory Unretirement, The Perils of Being the Best, and Thrown from the Zeppelin.
— Michael Corleone, The Godfather Part III
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In Bakuman。, writers cannot simply end their series when they want to, as long as there's still some life in the series, and if they simply abandon their series, they will never be able to write for Jump again. Mashiro and Takagi manage to secure a compromise in which they quit their current series to launch another that can compete with Eiji's works, and Eiji himself cancels his own series after becoming the most popular manga artist in Jump.
- A very persuasive example is in Berserk where Griffith was less than willing to let his best fighter leave him and pursue his own goals in life, feeling that he belonged to him and never before being denied by his minions in life. Very much less than willing.
- Bleach: The Central 46 believes retirement is a waste of the resources used to train Soul Reapers so it's not permitted. Soul Reapers that leave active service officially take "extended leave" and could theoretically be recalled to service at a moment's notice. Soul Reapers officially recorded as "retired" have either died in battle, been promoted to the Royal Guard or been clandestinely shuffled off to a secret prison where people who are considered a potential danger to society - but who have committed no actual crimes - are locked away forever.
- Cowboy Bebop: Death is the only way to leave the crime syndicates. Especially the Red Dragon.
- In Crying Freeman, The Freeman got abducted, then forced to work as an assassin for the Sons of the Dragon and obviously he isn't allowed to leave them as they initiated him against his will in the first place.
- Darker Than Black: The Syndicate (and probably everyone else). They don't get a lot of choice about joining, either.
- In Death Note, at the Yotsuba group's "meetings of death," one member, Hattori, gets scared of going to jail and says he wants to quit the meetings. After Higuchi warns him that a statement like that might get him killed and Ooi reminds him that he's too deeply involved to escape blame, he apologizes and retracts his statement, but later gets killed anyway.
- Implied in Hellsing with Millennium. If they're willing to set you on fire if you fail your mission or were about to spill their secrets, do you really think they'd let you retire? Not that they care.
- Implied in the climax of Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade. After the protagonist Fuse shoots dead his Love Interest, we see another member of the unit in a nearby derelict building, de-cocking his Broomhandle Mauser which he had aimed at them.
- Akatsuki in Naruto. As Konan unfortunately finds out.
- It's quite a bit more complicated than that...it's more like the new administration was running counter to its original goals and thereby disgusted original members like Konan.
- In Noir, the secret organization Soldats has absolutely no problem assassinating people who used to kill for them.
- The Shichibukai in One Piece are essentially mercenaries, pirates who work for the government to fight and scare off other pirates. So naturally, if one decides to quit, they go back to being pirates, i.e. enemy #1. It doesn't help that the Shichibukai is made up of pirates with massive former bounties, so as soon as they quit, their bounties are reinstated, leading them to be high-profile targets.
- The Big Mom Pirates also have this; Once you're a part of the crew, you can't leave. Big Mom claims that if someone of strength wants to withdraw, they must turn over one of their limbs, but according to her daughter Praline, no one has successfully lived to escape Big Mom's control;. Only one of her daughters managed to pull this off, and as such Big Mom wants to kill her.
- In Science Ninja Team Gatchaman some members of Galactor actually try to leave, most notably Condor Joe's parents but they are killed before they can do so. In fact, Berg Katse asks a girl who was told she could leave if she completed a special mission why she ever thought she could leave Galactor alive!
- The teams in Witch Hunter Robin.
- This was true for the Dark Signers in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, and to make it worse, at least three of its seven total members ended up wanting to quit (maybe four; Kiryu was a "maybe".) The fact that most of them didn't join willingly was a big part of that, but the Earthbound Gods were willing to control them like puppets to make sure they didn't actually turn against them. (And even that didn't work in Carly's case.)
- A standard in evil organizations (see Hydra for Marvel Comics) and villains' mooks. No one can leave The Joker's gang alive, or the Red Skull. Even Always Chaotic Evil races are so: Skrulls (Marvel Comics) are said to be euthanized when old. Ninja clans in particular are notorious for this rule.
- The Hand is especially nasty, since they can raise the dead. Even death isn't an escape.
- One that deserves especial note was the Scourges of the Underworld, the murderous vigilantes that target super-villains, because this policy was what led to their undoing. One recruit, Priscilla Lyons, couldn't bring herself to kill her first mark and wanted out, but she knew they'd be after her; prior to this, every would-be defector (or failure, or even members who were in danger of being caught) had been killed by the others before they could spill any of the groups secrets. But she was smarter than the others. She quickly called the Avengers hotline, and got in contact with the USAgent, and as a result, they both brought the entire organization down. (A few "lone wolf" Scourges have shown up since then, but the actual organization does not appear to have ever recovered.)
- Less sinister version in Ex Machina. During a crisis, Mitchell's second-in-command starts saying he's going to quit, only for Mitchel to interrupt forcefully and say he needs him because he needs someone questioning him every step of the way, even if he can't always agree.
- Late in The '70s, the Marvel villain the Purple Man had a Cut Lex Luthor a Check epiphany. He realized that he didn't really need to be a supervillain to get what he wanted, because he had a Compelling Voice (actually, super-pheromones, but it works the same), so people would just hand him whatever he wanted, and thank him for the privilege. So he tried to quit being a villain and take up a life of hedonistic debauchery. Cue almost a decade of stories in which some Big Bad (like the Kingpin or Doctor Doom) would track him down and force him to help with their latest Evil Scheme. Since then, he's apparently become resigned to his fate, and his last several appearances have shown him trying to Take Over the World.
- Nextwave sees Dirk Anger contemplating/attempting various suicide methods. He eventually succeeds in hanging himself...accidentally, but to his annoyance, Beyond Corporation did not accept the terms of his retirement and brought him back as a zombie. A green one, who craved brains. It's that kind of series.
- This trope is the whole plot of RED.
- How Al Simmons eventually became Spawn. He was an assassin who wanted to retire from the profession, only for Jason Wynn, his boss, to screw him on his last job and send him to Hell.
- Monica's Gang: A story featured three scientists who worked developing weapons for a Corrupt Corporate Executive. When they decided to quit, he kept them locked in the lab and said he might accept their resignations fifty years later. The scientists escaped.
- The Agency in Zero dispatches agents in order to eliminate enforcers who left the Agency. Edward is sent to dispatch one such enforcer in issue 4.
- Button Men: Button Men are promised huge sums at the end of their "careers", but none of them are supposed to exit the Killing Game alive.
- A big part of the plot of Analyze This and it's sequel. A mobster wants to retire, both because the violence is getting to him and to keep his children out of that lifestyle, and his peers object strongly.
- In The Brothers Grimm:
Mercurio: (ordered to shoot the protagonists) Sir, I'd like to... resign from my—(Blam!)
Gnl. Delatombe: (puts away his still-smoking gun) Resignation accepted.
- The Crying Game. Fergus refuses to do a mission for the IRA when Jude asks.
Fergus: No way, Jude. I'm out.
Jude: (practically rolling her eyes) You're never out.
- Big Boy's organization in Dick Tracy.
Big Boy: You are not out! When you are dead, then you are out!
- Since Big Boy Caprice was played by this trope's page quote originating actor...
- The Godfather trilogy, as seen in the page quote, but also The Mafia in general. This may be Truth in Television.
- James Bond:
- Goldfinger: Mister Solo, after having Operation Grand Slam to rob Fort Knox revealed to him, states his intention to leave rather than take part in the plan with the rest of the gangsters. He is allowed to leave, and in fact, Goldfinger makes a point of saying that "We must respect Mr. Solo's decision". He's then driven away by Oddjob, and rather than taken to the airport, is shot with a silenced pistol by him.
- Licence to Kill: M does not take kindly Bond's desire to hunt down Franz Sanchez after said drug lord crippled Bond's friend and killed his wife. M could not fire Bond or allow him to resign - only revoke his licence to kill.
M: This private vendetta of yours could easily compromise Her Majesty's government. You have an assignment, and I expect you to carry it out objectively and professionally.Bond: Then you have my resignation, sir!M: We're not a country club, 007!
- Die Another Day implies that MI-6 has a compound in the Falkland Islands for keeping agents deemed a danger (which may include those who decide to resign).
- Kill Bill: When The Bride tried to resign from the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, they tried to murder her. The second installment indicates that she didn't quit as much as walk off her current assignment and allow Bill to think that she was dead. This way she could start a new life somewhere else and avoid having Bill raise their child as an assassin. The ironic part is, by the time she woke up, the Deadly Vipers were defunct as a team; in fact, only two of them were still active criminals.
Bill: There are consequences to breaking the heart of a murdering bastard.
- After Mata Hari tries to resign from espionage work, her spymaster sends out his hit man to have her killed. She escapes from the hit man but winds up being arrested and executed by the French.
- And similarly, Mean Guns.
- Averted in Men in Black, where the technology to alter people's memories means an agent can retire without the agency worrying that He Knows Too Much. Although the second movie shows that it's possible for the agency to find an ex-agent and restore his or her memory if needed, which verges into Mandatory Unretirement (if things get to that point, they're not going to take no for an answer).
- Mr. & Mrs. Smith had a double whammy of this.
- Nuns on the Run: The problem the heroes find a way to overcome.
- The entire plot for Operation Endgame at first seemingly revolves around setting up a situation where all prospective defectors and/or resignors are tasked with killing one another.
- The President's Analyst: Sidney Schaefer believes he will not be allowed to resign since he knows too much about the president. After a paranoia induced dream he deserts and is pursued by people who want him dead or captured.
- Basically the whole plot of Sexy Beast. Though in this case the obstacle in the way of retiring from the London mob isn't so much the organization itself as a single psychotic member.
- Spies Like Us.
Fitz-Hume: We were just talking and we'd like to go home now. So, uh, thanks for the bruises and you can keep the stool samples...Col. Rhumbus: Boys... it'd be a shame to have to kill you now. (drives off)Fitz-Hume: What'd he mean by that?Milbarge: It means we're O.I.O.Fitz-Hume: What's that?Milbarge: Obligated Involuntary Officers.
- Alex Rider: Max Grendel in Scorpia begins drawing up plans to retire from the titular terrorist organisation, citing a distaste for their latest scheme, which involves a mass-murder of children. One of his colleagues gives him a briefcase as a parting gift... which turns out to be full of scorpions.
- Aubrey-Maturin: Secret agent Duhamel falls victim to this when trying to defect.
- In Catch-22 the main characters have to fly a certain number of missions before they are discharged. The number of missions keep increasing however...
- Ciaphas Cain: In The Emperor's Finest, Mira seems to think Cain can quit his job as commissar to become her consort. Cain knows better:
Once you put on the scarlet sash, it's there till they bury you in it (assuming they can find enough bits for the ceremony, which in our vocation is never entirely certain).
- In Codex Alera, Amara ends up leaving the First Lord's service - but he manages to draw her back in, much to her hatred and disgust.
- In The Dresden Files, this is how Lara Raith treats her employees. After several of them are crippled/fatally wounded in an attack by an Eldritch Abomination, she orders her people to take them to her (life-force sucking) sisters, who are also wounded. Harry protests, knowing that if the sisters feed on those people, the people will die. Lara calmly states that they know too much about the White Court to allow them to be let go, and that with the sheer severity of the injuries sustained, their quality of life is borderline nonexistent. Harry, naturally, finds this to be reprehensible, and Lara retorts that he seems to have forgotten that she's a monster. A neat, habitually effective, incredibly efficient monster.
- The Firm: This is a defining characteristic of the eponymous firm, Bendini Lambert & Locke.
- Years before Galaxy of Fear, Mammon Hoole worked for the Empire in a lab. When something went horribly wrong and a world was cleansed of life, his lab partner stayed with the Empire and profited significantly from it. Hoole left, horrified, and found himself blacklisted by the Empire and blamed for the disaster. He had to drop part of his name.
- From the Harry Potter series, the Death Eaters are this sort of organization.
Sirius (talking about his deceased brother): From what I found out after he died, he got in so far, then panicked about what he was being asked to do and tried to back out. Well, you don't just hand in your resignation to Voldemort. It's a lifetime of service or death.
- David Weber's In Fury Born has a rare good guy example. Once you join the Cadre, you never retire; you're only placed on "reserve status" and they can reactivate you whenever they want.
- In the George R.R. Martin Thousand Worlds short story "The Hero": Kagen, the eponymous Super Soldier, is a veteran of decades of combat, but feels like he's getting slow and that it's time for him to retire. He petitions his commanding officer for permission to muster out and maybe head back to Earth to see what he's been fighting for, as he's never been there. The commander tries to convince him to stay on, saying no one ever really retires, there are no high gravity barracks to accommodate Kagen's Heavyworlder physiology, and they're about to see some major action where Kagen's experience will be needed, but he won't be swayed. So the commander arranges for Kagen to be killed after his retirement ceremony and has a cover story concocted to explain his death, as he thinks a Super Soldier let loose on Earth would be a disaster waiting to happen.
- If you're an agent of the Laundry in Charles Stross' The Laundry Series you can't quit. Ever. In fact, you probably weren't even given much choice in joining — most Laundry agents were too close to unleashing Eldritch Abominations by accident and simply weren't safe to leave in civilian life. If you screw up they'll put you on unimportant duties but they can't fire you for the same reasons. It's strongly hinted that Laundry agents don't even get to quit once they're dead.
- By The Rhesus Chart this policy has become impractical due to the large number of people aware of The Masquerade; they're still bound by the same (magically enforced) secrecy provisions, but are allowed to take ordinary jobs in society, with the Laundry using them as contacts in the larger world or a reserve force to be drawn on in case of emergency.
- Guards of the Citadel of Minas Tirith in Lord of the Rings swear to serve, "until my Lord release me, or death take me, or the world end."
- Vladimir "Viktor Suvorov" Rezun, a defector from the GRU, Soviet military intelligence, started Aquarium, one of his books on the subject by reminiscing about how he was told, when joining, "Theoretically there's only one way out for any member of the organization—through the chimney of the crematorium." And then the recruiter showed him a film of somebody who tried to leave being put into the furnace alive. note
- In A Song of Ice and Fire you have both the Kingsguard and the Night's Watch. Both requires an oath to join, and once that is said, there is no way out. It's possible to be reassigned from the Kingsguard to the Night's Watch, but it is almost never voluntary; one known case of such a reassignment was accompanied by castration of the Kingsguard member guilty of amorousness. If you desert, they will hunt you down and kill you. The exceptions are Ser Barristan Selmy and Ser Boros Blount of the Kingsguard, but both of those got fired rather than resigned, and those are the only examples in recorded history where this has happened.
- By firing those two, the Lannisters created a pretty foundation-shaking precedent; later Cersei plans to use that precedent to assassinate Jon Snow and get the assassin out of the Night's Watch scot free. However, these plans do not reach fruition.
- Star Wars Expanded Universe: Uli Divini was a genius teen surgeon during the Clone Wars who had enlisted for one tour, after which he would go back to his homeworld and presumably start or join a practice. Instead, since the new Empire was short on doctors, they executed an Imperial Military Stop Loss Order, or IMSLO. As a result of that, Uli served for twenty years, getting rather jaded in the process. He tends to Princess Leia after she is tortured, and since he seems like a pretty decent guy she demands to know why he still works for the Empire; he tells her that he can't leave, he'll be shot. He joins the Rebellion when the Death Star is destroyed, somewhat to his own surprise.
(IMSLO is) A retroactive order mandating that, no matter when you'd been conscripted, once you were in, you were in for as long as they wanted you - or until you got killed. Either way, it was kiss your planned life goodbye. Imperial Military Stop Loss Order. An alternative translation, scrawled no doubt on a 'fresher wall somewhere by a clever graffitist, had caught on over the last few years: "I'm Milking Scragged; Life's Over."
- Tales of the Branion Realm: The sovereign cannot abdicate, since he or she doubles as the Vessel of the Living Flame; only the Vessel may rule and only the ruler can be the Vessel. The Flame passes though the family line without regard for sanity, health, legitimacy, gender or age, so there is no way to be skipped save death. There are two known attempts — an apostate who converted to another faith, and a crown prince who abdicates in full knowledge that he could be executed for it.
- The Dark Forest from Warrior Cats. In The Last Hope, Beetlewhisker tries to leave, but Brokenstar kills him.
- X-Wing Series:
- Gara Petothel/Lara Notsil. After discovering that Good Feels Good and the Power of Friendship is something she'd not felt since she was little, she wants to give up her plans as The Mole. It's never that easy.
- In her case, though, it's more of a fear of a Face Heel Door Slam than this trope. Leaving wasn't the problem—well it was, but she could handle it—being accepted by the new team was, as she was technically guilty of treason for her previous acts, which (as Wedge later points out) would almost certainly have resulted in her being executed for same. After The Reveal, she's forced to go back to Zsinj. She proceeds to sabotage Zsinj's efforts from the inside. Afterward, she ends up Faking the Dead, creating a "new" identity for herself—actually a very old identity, but now on a more permanent basis—and hooking up with Myn Donos, who by this point had forgiven her for destroying his squadron.
- Wedge lampshades this in one of the comics◊.
"After every major victory, I hope the fighting is over, but it'll never be over. Even after we defeat the Imperials, there will be someone... another threat to peace..."
- Subverted in another book of the X-Wing Series, when Warlord Zsinj mentions that it's about time for one his subordinates to retire. Face Loran, impersonating another of Zsinj's subordinates, asks if he should take care of that himself.
"I meant an actual retirement, Zurel. He goes away to live in a cottage somewhere and writes his memoirs."
- Wedge and Tycho keep trying to retire and always end up getting called back by the next Really Big Galactic Crisis. They're getting older.
Wedge: "We keep trying to retire. Give up this life of shooting things."
Tycho: "We're really men of peace at heart."
- Gara Petothel/Lara Notsil. After discovering that Good Feels Good and the Power of Friendship is something she'd not felt since she was little, she wants to give up her plans as The Mole. It's never that easy.
- In 30 Rock Jack learns that the Bush administration is doing this, forcing him to instead lead a costly, embarrassing, and useless military research project to get fired.
- Alias: Sydney Bristow tries to quit SD-6, The C.I.A. and just about any other intelligence agency, even being called back into action in the series finale, after achieving happily ever after isolated on a remote island.
Holland Manners: Oh, no. I'm quite dead. Unfortunately my contract with Wolfram and Hart extends well beyond that.
- The evil law firm Wolfram and Hart doesn't just have its employees sign contracts that are in effect until death, they extend beyond the grave.
- Lee was rudely awakened to this policy while attempting to jump ship to a rival firm. When they found out during a telepathic scan, they promptly blew his brains out.
- Babylon 5: once a psychic is conscripted into the Psi Corps, they are not allowed to leave. Anybody who does leave is hunted down and executed. The telepaths who take sleeper drugs are sometimes killed or commit suicide. Oh, and did we mention that ALL human telepaths are legally required to make the choice between joining the Corps or taking the sleepers, making the only legal "third option" (and a rarely-taken one at that) to become a citizen of an alien government?
- In the 1970s The Bionic Woman episode "On the Run" (the final episode of the series), Jaime Sommers tries to resign from the OSI but discovers that if she does so, she'll be confined to a government compound for the rest of her life. (This storyline was inspired by The Prisoner.)
- Burn Notice: Played with — Michael didn't want to leave his old organization, but everyone there wants him to just sit down and shut up. "Management" threatened him about leaving them, but he seems to be doing all right so far. And then, of course, Season 3 comes along and gives him a "Be Careful What You Wish For" as his search to get his job back leads to Strickler selling out Fiona to an Irish terrorist, Michael's CIA contact Diego being killed, and Michael's killing off Strickler having even further unforeseen consequences.
- Chuck thinks he's free to leave the CIA in the second season, but he would have been assassinated by his own handler had he actually quit. Furthermore, in a somewhat non-fatal version of this Trope, Chuck quits the Buy-More at the end of the same season, but his job hunt at the start of the third is manipulated behind the scenes by the CIA (because he can be surveilled by them more easily at the store), so no other company but the Buy-More will hire him. As of the fourth season, Chuck's attempts to find a job outside the CIA after being given explicit permission to leave are foiled by the CIA, which is apparently willing to go back on its deal with Chuck and blackmail him into working for them again.
- Averted with the Tanglewood Boys gang from CSI: NY. The Tanglewood Boys seem to be precisely the sort of group that this trope would apply to, but the official gang tattoo includes room for two dates: the date when someone joins the gang and the date when he leaves it. And while Danny says that leaving the gang alive "hardly ever happens," the show gives at least one example where it did: Danny's brother Louis.
- A large part of the plot in La Femme Nikita, as well as The CW reboot series Nikita.
- Sort of. Late in the second season of Nikita, Percy admits he's tired of the whole conflict and offers Nikita a deal to make Division leave her and her crew alone if they just stop interfering in Division operations. Nikita turns it down, as she refuses to let the fight end on anyone's terms but her own — after all, she's in it to save the world.
- In The Fixer, John Mercer can either work for Lenny Douglas or go back to prison.
- Several episodes of Get Smart dealt with CONTROL protecting defectors from retribution form their old employer KAOS.
- Heroes — the shadowy Company started by "the 12" doesn't like quitters. One guy does manage to quit, but he has to fake his death and remain invisible at all times in order to do it.
- The Pretender: The Centre won't accept Jarrod's resignation although he doesn't exactly try and stay below the radar after he escapes. Plus he was never an employee, only a company asset.
- The Prisoner is based entirely around this trope. Possibly excepting the last episode.
- In The Sopranos Eugene Pontecorvo requests a resignation from the mob to retire to Florida after getting a hefty inheritance from his aunt. Tony Soprano brings up omerta and disallows Pontecorvo's retirement. It also turns out that Eugene is an FBI informant, and they also disallow his retirement, insisting that he continue to spy on the mob.
- In Star Trek, once someone is recruited into Section 31, they're considered to be an active agent for the rest of their career in Starfleet, as Malcolm Reed and Julian Bashir learned. What makes this worse, is that's it's also implied applications are not accepted. Once you're deemed to be a suitable candidate, you're given a brutal Secret Test of Character and then are considered a member, whether you want to be one or not. If you try to resist or go against the wishes of your handler, chances are Section 31 will simply have you killed and replaced with another unwilling agent. In Bashir's case, he was considered useful enough that Section 31 preferred manipulating him into carrying on their missions. Sometimes capitalizing on the fact that he's not going to ignore a threat to the Federation just because it was Section 31 that informed him of it and other times giving him a different mission than what they actually want accomplished, so that his attempts to subvert them will play into their hands.
- UFO: In "Kill Straker!", Colonel Foster is subject to alien brainwashing. The others contemplate killing him because He Knows Too Much about SHADO, and therefore can't just be fired.
- Defied on The Wire. Cutty returns from prison and joins Barksdale's crew (Avon having recruited him in prison). After he can't pull the trigger on an enemy Mook, he apologizes to Avon, saying "The Game ain't in me no more" and clearly expects to be killed in response. Avon lets him go with a Man Hug.
Slim Charles: He was a man in his time, y'know?
Avon: He a man today. He a man.
- In one episode of The Wonder Years, Kevin gets a job at a hardware store, a job he hates, but when he decides to quit, his boss won't let him.
- Pretty much every evil organization in Feng Shui is like this. The Ascended are particularly ruthless in this regard when it comes to their Pledged pawns.
- Common behaviour for the clans and sects in Vampire: The Masquerade, since they really don't want their secrets leaking out to enemy factions.
- Warhammer 40,000
- Sidestepped by The Inquisition, of all people. Very few of them want to leave in the first place, and those that do have enough clout in the galaxy-spanning government that they could just sneak off to some remote world and take up an "undercover" desk job or something.
- The Tau's Fire Caste (the military). There are only two ways to get out: death, or by opting to take a third "trial by fire" (the first two are given to all Fire Warriors), after which they are allowed to become military advisers instead of continuing to fight.
- Technically applies to all five castes, though the civilian and government castes are much more chill about letting you retire once you get old.
- While some Imperial Guard regiments have a fixed length of enlistment, others are more like this; some literally keep fighting until they are too depleted to be useful, then muster out all survivors, while others let enlisted men retire only at periodic reorganisations, while taking reinforcements at all times. Depending on when he joins, a soldier in one of these may serve for two years or twenty. Officers have a more defined idea of retirement age, but talented ones may be called back into service when necessary.
- In the Planescape campaign, the Anarchs Guild is an organization exclusive to the githzerai with powerful Reality Warping abilities in Limbo. The downside is, you can't leave, and that applies to the organization and Limbo. (Even if a member did leave, he'd be a lot worse off, as the powers that come with membership only work in Limbo and are worthless anywhere else.)
- The story in the original Bushido Blade states that the player's chosen character is part of a small assassin cell that has a "You only leave when you die" rule in place. They want out.
- A City of Heroes story arc involves a Crey employee who wants to move out of Paragon City with his wife. They go to some extreme measures to try to keep that from happening.
- Kasumi in Dead or Alive, who left her clan to search for her brother and stop DOATEC's evil plan.
- Deus Ex. The biggest downside of all that neat nanotechnology you have is probably the kill-switch no one told you about that can be activated if you ever decide to change sides.
- This trope is also discussed when engaging in a social duel with a particular augmented soldier who observes that once you're part of a secret military organization, you can't resign without being designated as "going rogue" by the higher ups who seek absolute silence regarding their illegal and shady operations and will paint a target on quitters for hitmans and legal authorities.
- Dragon Age:
- If an Antivan Crow like Zevran fails an assassination he/she is considered dead to the Crows. Some Crows like Ignatio are willing to merely pretend the errant Crow is dead. Others want to make absolutely sure that is the case one way or another. If the Warden lives, Zevran will tell him/her that he knows the Crows will keep coming after him and that he will keep on fighting them for his freedom which is canon in Dragon Age II. If the Warden dies, Zevran will return to Antiva and take over the organization. It is both a victory and a defeat. Zevran has his life and a position of power and influence — but he never truly escapes the Crows.
- The Grey Wardens themselves aren't big on people walking away from them, and even if you try, you still have the Taint in your blood and a sharply reduced lifespan before the "last walk".
- Eternal Champions has Shadow, who was part of an assassin agency. When she found herself sympathizing with their victims and unable to kill anymore, she threw herself off the roof of their headquarters - they gave her no other way to leave.
- Challenge from the Dark Side clarifies that she didn't fall to her death by choice.
- Cid of Final Fantasy Tactics A2 was once a part of The Syndicate Khamja, but left when he decided the privileges didn't outweigh the dirty work he had to do. Illua had him shot, and he only survived because there was a nearby Judge who he could swear himself to. She sends her minion to shoot him again during the storyline just to let him know she hasn't forgotten.
- The Lopto Sect in the Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War and Thracia 776 canon. In Thracia 776, Salem questioned the Lopto Sect's actions and defected. He was almost killed trying to escape. He even has this to say about the order:
Salem: "The Lopto order does not tolerate traitors. That's the rule..."
- In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, C.J. finds out that this is also true about gang-banging. So, in a Crowning Moment of Awesome, he takes over the entire state.
- In Grand Theft Auto V Michael attempts to enjoy his retirement from high-stakes robbery but finds himself dragged back into the game after accidentally owing a Mexican drug lord a lot of money, then doing a favor for the FBI Agent who helped fake his death, which then drags him into a conflict between the FIB and the IAA.
- Kingdom Hearts: Organization XIII operates this way. Marluxia, Larxene, Xion, and Roxas all have Axel, the group's official assassin, sent after them when they go rogue. When he eventually turns traitor, too, second-in-command Saïx comes calling. The Trope Namer is a line spoken by Saïx to Roxas when he tries to stop Roxas leaving the Organization for good.
- The Sith on Manaan in Knights of the Old Republic has a double subversion. The young Selkath who are being trained as Sith claim that one who wanted to leave was allowed to do so, but if you look a few rooms over, you find him dying, and this convinces the Selkath to run away.
- Mass Effect 3: This turns out to be the case for anyone who decides to quit after joining Cerberus, including most of your crew from the second game. A number of missions center around helping various former team mates fight off Cerberus retribution, and at least one former crew-mate's survival relies entirely on a dialogue choice when you first run into them in the third game.
- Metal Gear: Solid Snake's actions in service to the CIA has assembled enough war crimes to, if the U.S. government so chooses, piledrive him into federal prison until he's a "very old man." Essentially, Campbell can revoke his retirement anytime he pleases, which he does. Twice.
- When Kyle leaves a message for the U.S. President in Parasite Eve 2 that he is retiring, the President is outraged because the guy knows too much on what happened in the hidden research facility that he was assigned to spy on. We never get to see what happens from there due to The 3rd Birthday having its plot being totally separate from the original canon.
- Shadow Warrior's Excuse Plot has Lo Wang quitting Zilla Enterprises after learning of his employer's plans to rule Japan using creatures summoned from the dark side. Master Zilla decides to use said monsters to kill Wang. Much ninja asskicking ensues.
- Part of Taki's All There in the Manual Backstory in the Soul series. In order to leave Japan and investigate Soul Edge, she has to abandon her ninja clan. One of the steps involved in doing so was fighting her pissed-off master, who wanted Soul Edge for himself.
- Kevin & Kell: The cult in The Wild. Rudy is forced to recruit for them at an airport, watched by several agents who plan to eat him if he attempts to run away. Kevin manages to sneak him past the agent at the exit by disguising him as his seeing-eye dog. On the other hand, when Ralph joins and never amounts to anything, the pack doesn't try to stop Kell from retrieving him.
- The Order of the Stick: When Haley quits the thieves' guild, the leader, Bozzok, gives her a head start before the ditzy-but-powerful assassin Crystal is sent after Haley. Of course, she has to reenter Greysky City later in the story. Like the thieves guild rules say "You can only leave in a coffin. And vampires can't even leave in one of those."
- Non-lethal version of the trope in Rival Angels. Anybody who tries to quit working for Yvonne Carmichael (Damage Inc's leader) before she feels like firing them has at least one severe ass-kicking in their future. The York Sisters and all three members of The Syndicate learned this the hard way.
Yeagar: You want us to join a club where the members can't fight worth squat and the punishment for quitting is your head exploding?Artax: Were you two drunk when you signed up??Cult Member (to another one): Guy has a point...
- The absurdity of this sort of thing is pointed out when a cult with rules like this tries to recruit Artax and Yeagar.
- Note that while the cult in that story didn't accept resignations, the creature that led the group did say that it had often fired members a lot. Whether such members survived or not, it didn't say.
- Nodwick himself isn't much better off. In one story, he tried to use a device capable of altering time to speed up the conditions of his contract so he could retire; it wasn't able to, and its attempt to do so tangled the Loom of Fate. In another story, he explains to the Powers That Be that the contract also states that, if killed, he cannot pass into the afterlife until all hope of revival has passed, or three years, whichever is longer.
- In Sam & Fuzzy, the Ninja Emperor's retirement package is a bodybag.
- In Our Little Adventure, Janice (one of the Souballo Empire's top members) flaunted her abilities to cast master magic in front of Angelo in an attempt to enact his Social Darwinism for him to destroy her. Brian and Angelo do kill her, but Angelo binds her soul to a gem and plans to put the soul back into a clone of her body they made for her. The kicker is that resurrection in this manner causes a loss of character level and Janice will no longer have access to the master magic until she regains the level lost.
Brian: "That's the thing with our empire: once you're in, you're in."
- Nonlethal example for the eponymous organization in Codename: Kids Next Door. You can quit if you want and you actually have to when you turn thirteen, but anyone who does so (with a few exceptions) is subjected to Laser-Guided Amnesia. Very much justified, because some of their worst enemies are former members.
- Donald Duck learns this the hard way in the 1942 short "Donald Gets Drafted". Inducted into the army, Donald gets fed up with his drill instructor, Pete, over his basic training and shouts "I quit!" Pete threatens him with brass knuckles and Donald instantly backs down. Justified due to the fact that you couldn't simply quit if you were drafted into the military. Pete's threatening of Donald is also justified due to the mentality present during World War II - not helping the war effort and doing your patriotic duty was tantamount to aiding the Axis.)
- Shown at the end of The Flintstones episode "Fred Flintstone: Before and After", where Fred joins a group called Food Anonymous to help him win a weight loss contest. After winning, Fred resigns. However, it seems that those who join are permanent members as the head of the group steals Fred's dinner (a trait that Food Anonymous employes) and runs off, ignoring Fred's claims that he resigned as he chases after him.
- In the Futurama Movie Within A Show "The Magnificent Three", the Vice President of Earth (played by Calculon), also the son of the President of Earth (played by Harold Zoid), refuses to follow in his father's footsteps and tries to resign at the end of the film. However, the President tears up his letter of resignation right before falling off the roof of the White House to his death, leading his son to become President, much to his dismay.
- Justice League: Task Force X — better known as the Suicide Squad, though they couldn't use that term on a kids' show. At the end of the episode of the same name, the criminals think they're done after one mission. Nope... they've got a long time to work off their sentences. They're let off once the parent organization (Cadmus) is disbanded at the end of the season.
- Cadmus also manages to briefly twist Captain Atom into working for them, by reactivating his Army commission. Turns out "Captain" isn't just a cutesy name, it's his actual rank. He's not happy about it, but is bound to follow orders.
- In the Screen Songs cartoon, "Gobs of Fun", the mouse captain finds a note from his crew outside a pub saying they quit. In response, he chews a tack and rapidly firedly spits onto the note "SEZ YOU", before marching into the pub and throwing his crew out of it and back onto his ship.
- The Simpsons: "Don't forget, you're here forever."
- Of course, despite that, Homer actually did quit and was hired again lots of times since that was said. A combination of the bad continuity of the series and Mr. Burns' tendency to forget who he is was likely to blame.
- Homer's one-time boss Hank Scorpio is a straight-up aversion. The man is not only a James Bond-style supervillain, but also the most Benevolent Boss ever. Scorpio takes a time-out during a US Army assault on his headquarters to listen to Homer's concerns about how moving has affected his family and recieve his resignation. Scorpio accepts it, gives Homer a short talk about the importance of family, and politely requests he "Kill someone on the way out. It would really be a great help."
- Played for laughs in an episode of Totally Spies!, where Clover inadvertently joins Mandy's fan club. It's an irreversible lifetime membership, but seeing as this was never mentioned again, it's probable that Clover got out because the club disbanded. (Given the type of person Mandy is, it's likely.)
- The Venture Bros. features a heroic version when Brock Samson goes on the run from three assassins after leaving the O.S.I. The twist ending, however, reveals that his termination from the O.S.I. was a misunderstanding or a manipulation, and they did not hire the assassins. The contracts actually came from the Blackhearts mercenary group who knew all along that Brock would defeat them and just wanted to eliminate the competition. Brock was deceived by his old mentor who infiltrated the Blackhearts as a triple agent (and a transsexual), and ultimately this was all part of a ploy to take down that organization too, and to found the shadowy S.P.H.I.N.X. team out of O.S.I. defectors.
- Joe Paterno, the winningest, most revered college football coach in history at Penn State University – he fits this trope in that, once his name became more and more associated with the fast-growing child abuse scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, and that it became clear to the university's board of trustees that he did nothing to stop it immediately ... he attempted to retire, effective at the end of the season. The board disagreed, and – needless to say, after his resignation was rejected – after 62 seasons with the program, the last 46 as coach, Joe Paterno was fired. Not long thereafter, Paterno died of cancer.
- Stop-loss policies in the military allow the army to keep you in it past the time you (think you) agreed to enlist for and can even stop you from transferring to somewhere else. These are usually enacted when recruiting is low and the military is busy in several places around the world. People want to leave active duty, but are prevented from doing so.
- In addition, they can recall you to active duty for a time after you are discharged from the service, but the period of time in which they can do so is spelled out in the enlistment contract. During that period of time, you are considered to be a member of The Reserves. Retired officers, on the other hand, can be recalled to duty at any time. Though practically speaking, at some point a retired officer would be considered too old to be fit for military service, even in desk duty. So even in the event of a dire national emergency, the odds of being recalled to duty shrink dramatically the longer you've been retired.
- The truth is that when enlisting in the United States armed forces, you do agree to enlist for the entire duration of stop-loss and inactive ready reserve. Your enlistment contract is absolutely unambiguous about the possibility of stop-loss and inactive ready reserve. Now, recruiters and the personnel handing you the contract are usually quite loathe to bring up the topic for some reason...
- This is quite standard for criminal gangs and syndicates the world over. Once you join a criminal organization, you're in it for life, and the only way to leave it is in a body bag... unless you're willing to turn yourself over to the authorities. Only a few individuals have ever been lucky to leave alive.
- Prison gangs in particular have a "blood in, blood out" policy — joining the gang frequently requires spilling the blood of someone from a rival gang (blood in), and once you're in the gang, the only way out is death, either at the hands of the gang or at the end of your natural life (blood out).
- Some countries forbid their heads of state to quit office, even if it's the only thing they can ethically do. The closest example of this trope is Mexico, since the Mexican Constitution states the only way a Mexican president can be able to quit office is being judged for federal crimes (like high treason) or dying due to natural causes or accidents. This law was created after the Mexican Revolution for preventing a president to quit so easily and for avoiding a coup d'etat - see the Pedro Lascuráin case.note
- According to Wikileaks, there is a way for a Mexican president to quit office, but implies suspending the Constitution (so any laws regarding the presidential mandate will become void), and no Mexican president will resort to that, even in the most dire of circumstances, since it could be used against the president itself in any time.
- Granted, the Mexican President's term is a fixed 6 years, so it's not like they're stuck there for life.
- Uniquely among European monarchs, the British sovereign cannot unilaterally abdicate. He or she may declare an intent to abdicate, but may only leave office after receiving the permission of the Commonwealth governments to do so. The historical basis for this is that one of the main points of contention after the English Civil War was who got to decide the succession to the throne, and after the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688, the question was decisively settled in favour of Parliament having the sole right to decide who gets to be King (or Queen). The UK and then the other Commonwealth Realms inherited this principle from the English (and Scots, who adopted it at the same time). When Edward VIII abdicated, it took a full day for the then six Commonwealth Realmsnote to complete the paperwork, with one of the Realms (Ireland) intentionally taking an extra day as a gesture of independence and as a convenient excuse to mostly write the monarch out of their constitution.note If any future monarch declared an intention to abdicate it would take much longer to obtain approval; in 1936 The UK parliament was able to legislate for the realms on such affairs as long as the prime ministers of the other realms agreed, but today it would require legislation to be passed in 8 of the 16 realms individually.note In Australia and Canada, moreover, it further requires the consent of all States/Provinces. For an example on how difficult this can be: In 2011, the Commonwealth realms agreed to change the rules of succession so that brothers did not automatically take precedence over sisters. Most realms passed legislation allowing this in 2013 but it wasn't fully in place until March 2015. Why? Blame the legislature of Western Australia, which didn’t get around to voting on the matter until earlier that month; only at that point could the Australian Commonwealth government commence the federal legislative process.note
- There is also no direct method by which an heir to the UK throne can abdicate his or her place in the line of succession. The only indirect way is to convert to Roman Catholicism.note
- Technically the case for Members of Parliament in Britain. A rule dating from the time of James I forbids resignation from the House of Commons. In those days, being an MP could be quite a hassle, especially for those representing rural constituencies far from London: you couldn't handle personal business back home and the trip to and from Westminster could only be conducted by poorly-maintained roads, and not to mention that before 1911, Members received no salary at all. And it was at the time not unusual for an MP to be elected involuntarily, providing further incentive to quit. As a result, the House passed a rule barring its members from resignation. However, as part of the Act of Settlement 1701, anyone holding an "office of profit under the Crown", i.e. a paid job in the executive or judicial branches of government, was disqualified from Parliament unless re-elected in a by-election; the English Civil War had made Parliament wary of royal influence on the Commons, and wanted to keep the king from controlling MPs by giving them jobs (if an MP's income depends in part on the king, he might be trusted to vote the king's way). This had two effects:
- Until the early 20th century, any MP appointed to the Cabinet—including the Prime Minister—had to seek re-election in his constituency in order to hold the seat and the office. At first this wasn't a problem, since most Cabinet members were Lords anyway, but as the number of members of the Commons in the Government rose, an exemption was made for certain situations.
- One could once again indirectly resign from Parliament by taking a paid office under the Crown. Eventually, it became the custom to take the office of Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds or the office of Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead, which had been sinecures with piddling pay for generations, as the means of resignation from the House. This has become so common that someone taking these offices is simply said to have resigned from Parliament in daily speech and the press.
- In an amusing incident, Northern Irish Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, who had been an (abstentionist) MP for Belfast West since 1997, decided to resign Parliament in 2011 to seek election to the Dail Eirann. When he won a seat at Leinster House, he submitted a letter of resignation to the Speaker but didn't apply for a Crown office, as he is opposed to the monarchy on principle. The Chancellor of the Exchequer's office (which handles these things) sent him a letter apologising and saying, essentially, "sorry, there's no other legal means for you to retire from the Commons, so here's your commission and your cheque for the pittance we technically have to pay you".
- Most of these has been codified in the House of Commons Disqualification Act, where Section 2 provided at most 95 MPs can keep their seats while holding a ministerial position, and Section 4 specifically stated "the office of steward or bailiff of Her Majesty’s three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham, or of the Manor of Northstead" are disqualifiable offices, but MPs "disqualified" this way may still enter elections while holding such positions.
- French kings were banned from abdicating because of the principle of Indisponibility of the Crown, i.e. the king was banned from tampering with royal succession. This principle led to one of the stranger disputes within the royalist camp after the Revolution: Philippe, the second son of Louis XIV's eldest son, had disclaimed his right to inherit the French throne in order to become Felipe V, King of Spain. For nearly two centuries, this mattered not one bit, as Philippe's elder brother's descendants held the throne until the Revolution, after which they were (usually) not anywhere near being on the throne. However, after the collapse of the Second French Empire in 1871, the Legitimists—the supporters of Philippe's older brother's line—had a plurality in the parliament of the supposedly-temporary Third Republic, and were waiting for the last member of that line (Charles, comte de Chambord) to either (a) come to his senses and reign as a constitutional monarch under the Tricolor or (b) die so that his heir could take the throne and do what Chambord refused to do. The issue of who that heir actually was split the Legitimist camp, with a majority supporting Philippe, comte de Paris (who was (1) the seniormost member of the House of Bourbon if you cut out the descendants of the Philippe who became King of Spain, because he was the heir by agnatic primogeniture of Louis XIV's younger brother; and (2) the preferred monarch of the somewhat more liberal Orléanist monarchists, who had a majority between themselves and the Legitimists), but a distinct minority supporting the seniormost male-line descendant of Felipe V, on the grounds that Felipe had not the authority to disclaim his right to succeed to the French throne.
- One of the rules of the Shinsengumi was that membership was for life.
- Supposedly, this is how ISIS works. Reports of would-be deserters being gassed or boiled alive for trying to flee have started to become common, as have reports of members Playing Sick simply to avoid being killed. (Seriously, they have.)