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Secret Project Refugee Family

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You and your fellow Artificial Humans/kidnap victims/siblings have just escaped from the lab you all grew up/were experimented on in? Where the heck do you go now? Chances are slim that any of you still have a family in the normal world. If that wasn't bad enough, not many people will want to put up with freaks like you.

So what do you do? Adopt each other as a family! Because, let's face it, you more or less have nobody else (unless you got lucky and got one of the project scientists to take care of you, but without nasty experiments this time).

A Breakfast Club and often a Family of Choice, expect one to be (self)-promoted to the role of parent. Commonly the Secret Project Refugee Family will become Phlebotinum Rebels as they either try to elude or take revenge on their creators... and elder siblings. Or hey, they're just one Evil Overlord recruitment away from becoming a Quirky Miniboss Squad. Not to be confused with Guinea Pig Family.

Alternatively, in more mundane settings without mutants and mad scientists, the "family" will instead be made up of the homeless, the destitute, the lonely, the abandoned and the crazy. Essentially, everyone who gets left behind by society, regardless if it is the fault of society itself, or their own. As in the "secret project" variety, the group of strangers or acquaintances will be brought together by the collective suckiness of their lives, and the advantages of pooling resources to ensure their survival. But unlike the "secret project" variety, members of the group will likely address their personal problems, while trying to ignore everyone else's.

Most of the initial conflict will arise from extremely volatile personality clashes, dealing with the collective angst the group has accumulated, attempts to cross the line between stranger and family, or outside forces threatening to disrupt or even dissolve their group. In most cases, the group will eventually come to trust one another as if they were real family, possibly even more than their real relatives (if they still have any); disproving that blood is Thicker Than Water.

Expect to hear lengthy discourse on getting what you want, the flaws of society, and the meaning/purpose of love and family, depending on how seriously the medium treats these issues.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The heroes of the Lyrical Nanoha franchise tend to collect artificially created or illegally-experimented-on people and adopt them into one of several overlapping "families". These include roughly half of the "Numbers" combat cyborgs in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS; Fate and Erio are both from the same cloning project; Signum, Shamal, Vita, and Zafira were all programmed murder machines until recently; Subaru and Ginga are precursors to the aforementioned Numbers; Agito only remembers back to her time spent in an unethical lab, being tested to death; and Vivio is a clone bioweapon. So far, that's no fewer than 18 project refugees all living in one big extended family.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam 00:
    • Allelujah and the Human Reform League supersoldier test subjects are implied to have tried to be this. Their very short-lived attempt doesn't work out very well.
    • From the second season on, Celestial Being seems to have become this. It's explicitly stated that Feldt, at least, considers the group her family, but then she was literally born and raised in Celestial Being (her parents were both Gundam Meisters who died before CB went public).
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • The Homunculi are a mixed bag. Lust showed affection for Gluttony like one would for a "pet" and he was likewise fond of her, and Wrath looked upon Sloth as a mother-figure. However, Greed had severed all ties, Pride was more of a boss, and Sloth was an assistant. In the manga, the other homonculi are outright terrified of Pride, and Sloth is really just a slave. The entity they call "father" seems to be called as such more out of fear than affection.
    • Gluttony is so upset by Lust's death that he goes Ax-Crazy when he realizes he's in the same room with her killer. On the flip side, Pride thinks nothing of devouring Gluttony when it's convenient for him.
    • In Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), Wrath and Sloth's relationship fits this as noted above. Likewise, Gluttony seems to show this in the 2003 anime, in which he is visibly distressed about the knowledge that Lust has died. He shuts down, to the point where Dante has to remove his mind so he will finalize the Philosopher's Stone that Alphonse's body has become. He is so distressed that Gluttony loses his appetite!
    • Of course, Greed didn't just abandon the rest for nothing. He built his own family, made out of chimeric runaways from secret labs. He tried to play it off as just his titular greed, but he really did care about them all.
  • The cyborg characters in Cyborg 009 were nine humans kidnapped an d experimented on by the Black Ghost organization. After they escaped, they became a family of sorts, together with Dr. Isaac Gilmore.
  • It could be argued that this applies to the Soul Society in Bleach. They're not artificial, but they pretty much have no way to find actual relatives except for Rukia's sister, so end up adopting each other as families.
    • This is actually stated by Yuichi when he talks to Chad upon Ichigo and his group arriving in the Soul Society.
      • As stated by many fans of Bleach: Worst...afterlife...EVER!
  • Part of the premise of Kyouran Kazoku Nikki. A group of seven (later eight) people, most of them harboring the DNA of a creature that promised to destroy the world and all of them from a dark past, live together under "Operation Cozy Family" to prevent the world from blowing up. Family members include a robot, a catgirl, a lion, a jellyfish and a girl with demon blood.
  • The cast of Read or Die becomes this by the end of the series: the Paper Sisters, Yomiko, Nancy and Junior. With Nenene as the "normal" one. (Don't ever call her that.)
  • The teens of Project ARMS end up as one as they are being hunted by Egrgori. Playing this trope even more straight, they all turn out to be specially bred to have ARMS implanted in them, directly going against the already established backstory.
  • The Gravity Children of Air Gear fit this trope nicely. Particularly the four "sisters" that live with Ikki when the story begins

    Comic Books 
  • The titular Lab Rats try to be this but their attempts to leave the campus never really work out and they all end up killed by Quinlan's plots.
  • Gen¹³: The kids are all escapees from a secret government program. Mirrored by DV8 and the Mongolian Barbeque Horde.
  • The cast of Runaways sort of fits this trope. After running away from their evil parents and not being satisfied with the foster care system, they adopted each other as a family.
  • Teen Titans:
    • The 1996 Titans were half-human, half-alien sleeper agents that instead banded together to fight the aliens. They then stayed together, with a deaged Atom as their mentor. Other DCU characters would join them over the course of the series.
    • Teen Titans: Earth One has the Titans consist mostly of this trope, each member of the team (except Raven) having gained their powers from "Project Titan" before escaping.
    • Spinning off from their Titans title, the New 52 label has The Ravagers; metahumans who got abducted for an experiment that turned out to be cover for a metahuman-hating terrorist from the future who wanted to make them Child Soldiers, before they got sick of that and set out on their own.
  • Infinity, Inc. had recurring antagonists Helix; an evil geneticist had mutated them in the womb, kidnapped them at birth, and then raised them in isolation. When he died, they took stock of their options and decided on crime.
  • Young Justice sets this trope up at the beginning with Secret leading them on an attack to free the others imprisoned in the facility she escaped from and which Robin, Impulse and Superboy had helped her avoid recapture by. Then it is subverted when the metahumans they freed are never seen again even when the team teams up with nearly every metahuman teen and kid in the DCU at the time to attack Zandia.
  • Superboy (1994): The second Newsboy Legion are clones of the originals plus a clone of another Cadmus scientist and Guardian's great-niece who hang out together at all times, regularly escape from Cadmus and don't fully trust anyone outside of their group. Understandable, since they'd originally been made to be used as spare parts.
  • Cloak and Dagger (Marvel Comics): Cloak and Dagger were runaways kidnapped off the street and used by a crime syndicate to test new drugs. They escaped, learned they'd developed new powers, and now they're almost inseparable.
  • In Wacky Raceland, the racers get their technology from "The Butcher Shop", and one or two of them were actually created there. Although constantly in competition, they are the closest thing to family that any of them have and are still together in the last issue when the Butcher Shop is destroyed.

    Fan Works 

  • Gypsies, by Robert Charles Wilson, is about the children and grandchildren of two world walkers who wandered into our world decades ago. The original married couple never told their kids where they were from, and punished them for the use of their powers. But the grandson of the first generation is starting to display his powers, and the last world walker from a really, really nasty dystopia has finally found them…
  • The Audubon Ballroom from David Weber/Eric Flint, in the Honor Harrington series, who are less of a family and more of a guerrilla army of escaped Mesan slaves. It does help that their organisation is pretty big and has powerful allies.
  • The Flock in James Patterson's Maximum Ride series. "The School" genetically engineered them to be Winged Humanoids, they escaped, they formed a family.
  • Star Wars Legends: The clone commandos who desert in the Republic Commando Series, though the Grand Army is far from secret by that time.
  • Connor, Risa and Lev in Neal Shusterman's Unwind, though what they are running away from is not a secret. They are running away from being "unwound", or having every body part taken away from them.
  • Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga:
    • The Durona sisters are clones of their progenitor Lilly Durona, and are escapees from one of Jackson's Whole robber barons.
    • Ethan of Athos has Terrance Cee, whose history is a pointed example of why these often don't work in real life (i.e., they make you easier to find).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Dark Angel:
    • It's consciously averted in the first season of, as the escaping X-5s decide to split up to avoid capture. However, Max acquires one of these in the second season with Alec and Joshua and later a whole city of transgenics.
    • It's also played straight in the second episode of the second season with a squad of younger transgenics who stayed together (giving Max a chance to play Mama Bear).
  • The LEDA clones in Orphan Black call themselves Sestras (Russian for "sisters"). Well, except for Rachel.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The New World of Darkness seems to be populated by a wide variety of these.
    • A typical throng of Promethean: The Created characters — not exactly lab projects most of the time, but often abandoned by their creators, spurned by humanity, and seeking someone for tea and sympathy.
    • This is also how a motley or Freehold of Changelings can tend to look in Changeling: the Lost. They can afford to be a little pickier than the poor Prometheans, but honestly, when you've been kidnapped by beautiful and terrible Eltritch Abominations, tortured into a more pleasing (and utterly not human) form to suit their whims, survived this process, escaped back to Earth, and then found, at best, some thing with your face in your place, and at worst found that time has screwed you over quite severely in the bargain... well, as the book says, Changeling society tends to be pretty dang forgiving of its members' little "quirks". Oh, and of course, we have the Summer, and to a lesser extent, Autumn Courts....
    • And in Hunter: The Vigil, one of the playable factions is the Merrick Institute. Runaways from a now-defunct government project , they decided to use their new Dream Walker powers to fight astral monsters.
    • For another New World of Darkness example, Deviant: The Renegades deals with people who were changed by scientific experiments (or, in some cases, occult rituals) who are on the run from the people who made them, trying to gather the power to strike back.

    Video Games 
  • Though it doesn't come up much in the series, the Bandicoot family in Crash Bandicoot are basically this (namely Crash and Coco, and later on Crunch), since they were all created by a Mad Scientist (i.e. Dr. Cortex) to be his footsoldiers for world domination only to turn against him and thwart his evil plans time and time again.
  • The King of Fighters:
    • Starting from The King of Fighters 2003, this fits Team K' after the fall of NESTS fairly well with K', his Heterosexual Life-Partner Maxima, and sister figure Kula (who treats Maxima like her Cool Uncle). Whip, who alternates between Team K' and the Ikari Warriors depending on the game she's in, factors in as K's biological sister.
    • The King of Fighters XV introduces another one in Team Krohnen - following a falling out with Team K', Kula joins up with two other NESTS refugees - Ángel, whose pre-existing bad blood with Kula causes them to squabble akin to siblings, and Krohnen, who ends up exasperatedly having to play the role of the Team Dad.
  • Strega from Persona 3: They aren't actually artificial humans, but they were the only survivors of a secret project to create Persona-summoners out of humans who weren't born with the talent..... too bad they ended up with something a bit closer to Team Rocket instead.
  • Bioshock: Little Sisters were created with bodies made to generate ADAM, though the value of ADAM makes them targets. In the good ending, protagonist Jack rescues the Little Sisters, turning them into normal girls, and lives happily with them after escaping Rapture.
  • SUGURI has the Shifu Brands, i.e. the game's stage bosses, all pull a Heel–Face Turn and settle down on Earth after the defeat of their boss Shifu, who bound them to follow his orders when modifying them into supersoldiers.
  • The Cybran Nation of Supreme Commander began as this, complete with the mad scientist/genius (Dr. Gustaf Brackman) responsible for creating them as their father figure - and said father figure is still alive and kicking one thousand years later. Although really now, they're more of a Obvious Project Refugee Country now.
    • Albeit Brackman has been reduced to a brain + spinal column + cybernetic enhancements inside a vat of unknown liquid. He can only communicate with others through a life-sized 3D hologram of himself.
  • Hermana Larmo in Tales of Innocence runs a secret school to harbor "Gifted" children that would otherwise be captured and researched by the government.
  • Touhou:
    • Eientei: Eirin and Kaguya, two Lunarian immortals on the run from the crime they committed against fellow Lunarians; Reisen, a Lunar Rabbit defector; Tewi, an Earth rabbit who host them; and later Medicine, a venomous doll that Eirin took as apprentice.
    • Byakuren, rejected by humankind, gathers quite a band of Youkai followers that look up at her.

  • The Renegades in Elf Blood somewhat qualify, with Ixnay acting as a kind of den mother. Only TKO and JN were ever experimented upon, however, and the only real family within the group are the Whittle sisters.
  • Grace and her "brothers" from El Goonish Shive form one, at least after Damien is killed having been freed from having to live in the remains of the lab where they were created. Of the four of them, only Grace and Vladia are actually blood siblings.

    Web Original 
  • The Lambsbridge Gang in Twig is this without the running away part, instead being employed by Radham Academy as problem solvers. While they act as a family unit, the Academy has different means of maintaining control of all of them, so that the Lambs can't all run away together due to differing priorities. When Sylvester eventually does decide Screw This, I'm Outta Here and deserts the Academy, only Jamie chooses to join him in running away, since all the others need the Academy more than they need to be free.
  • SCP Foundation, SCP-2085 ("The Black Rabbit Company"). After they Escaped from the Lab, the Cat Girls that make up most of SCP-2085 decided to stick together and form a mercenary group called The Black Rabbit Company.

    Western Animation 
  • Double Subversion: Bionic Six. They were a blended family brought together when the parents adopted an Asian son and a black son. Then they were turned bionic to save their lives, after which point they were pressed into service for the government. So they were willing, given that they owed the government their lives, and the teen members got a kick out of being superheroes.
  • The Mutates from Gargoyles except Fang after his Face–Heel Turn — or, perhaps, after Maggie, Claw, and Talon's Heel–Face Turn, depending on one's point of view. Its complicated. Later, most of the Gargoyle clones join them.
  • Justice League features two approximate examples. The Joker's Royal Flush Gang from "Wild Cards" is a group of metahuman teens (modelled on the powers of the Teen Titans and using the same voice actors from that show) who the Joker has liberated from the government's Project Cadmus and trained in supervillainy. The Ultimen from "Ultimatum" (who are in turn a pastiche of the Wonder Twins and the Ethnic Scrappy characters from Superfriends) are a borderline case, since they technically never quite succeed in escaping the secret project.
  • One Quack Pack episode has a regular ordinary family, a dad, wife, and a girl. And they're secretly armed robots hiding from the military.
  • In Static Shock, She-Bang is a test tube baby engineered to have super powers, and her "parents" are actually the motherly and fatherly scientists who liberated her from her makers so she wouldn't be used as a weapon.