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You and your fellow Artificial Humans, kidnap victims or siblings have just escaped from the lab you all grew up in/were experimented on? 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, 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.

Examples of Secret Project Refugee Family include:

Anime and Manga

  • The Numbers in Nanoha StrikerS.
    • And to a lesser extent, the Knights.
    • Fate and Erio are both from the same 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. Vivio is a clone bioweapon. Lutecia may also apply.
      • So far, I count no less than 18 project refugees all living in one big military family.
  • From 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.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist had both the Chimeras and the Homunculi.
    • The Homunculi didn't seem to be on exactly familial terms with one another. Lust never showed any affection outside of "pet" for Gluttony, Envy was seriously hostile, Greed had severed all ties, Pride was more of a boss, and Sloth was an assistant. Wrath alone seems to fit this trope only because he had the mind of a child. 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.
    • But Wrath and Sloth's relationship in the anime does seem to fit this.
    • Likewise, Gluttony seems to show this in the anime, in which he is visibly distressed about the knowledge that Lust has died. He pretty much 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.
    • In the manga and Brotherhood, 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. But on the flip side, Pride thinks nothing of devouring Gluttony when it's convenient for him.
  • The Schiff in Blood Plus.
  • The cyborg characters in Cyborg 009.
  • 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
  • Holland's crew in the Eureka Seven movie.
  • Although some still have some family left, most Straw hats are orphans, and they consider the crew their family.

Comic Books

  • John Byrne's Next Men comic.
  • The Marvel Universe's Livewires and The DCU's Lab Rats.
  • Gen 13. Mirrored by DV8 and the Mongolian Barbeque Horde.
  • The Morlocks from X-Men.
    • A fair number of the X-Men themselves. Wolverine, X-23 . . . I'm sure a bunch of the others.
  • The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And various imitations.
  • 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.
  • Nocturnals. Some are refugees from secret projects. Others are supernatural entities. All of them have nowhere else to go.
  • A particularly unusual (and nonhuman) example: WE 3.
  • Scare Tactics.
  • The Teen Titans from 1996 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.
  • Cloud, Seraph and Harridan initally appeared as this in The Defenders; being on the run from the Secret Empire. Cloud would later join the Defenders.




  • The main characters in James Patterson's Maximum Ride series.
  • The mutants who live in the fringes in The Chrysalids seem to adopt each other as a sort of 'tribe'/family.
  • The Durona sisters in Lois McMaster Bujold Vorkosigan Saga are clones of their progenitor Lilly Durona, and are escapees from one of Jackson's Whole robber barons.
    • The same series also has Terrance Cee, whose history is a pointed example of why these often don't work in real life (ie, they make you easier to find).
  • Another (and more warlike) example is 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 have powerful allies.
  • 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.
  • 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 clone commandos who desert in the Republic Commando series count as this, though the Grand Army is far from secret by that time.

Live Action TV

  • It's consciously averted in the first season of Dark Angel, as the escaping X-5's 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.
    • Dark Angel also played it straight, with a squad of younger transgenics who stayed together (giving Max a chance to be Mama Bear).
  • Babylon 5: Telepaths who were not in Psicorps attempted to run away. Some were more successful than others.
  • Kyle and Jessi from Kyle XY, to some extent. Partially subverted in that they had a normal, human family as well, and probably didn't see each other in quite such a brother/sister way in the end...
  • In later seasons of The Pretender, Jarod was joined at various points by a young fellow escapee and his own father, a former Centre employee.

Tabletop Games

  • 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 Eldritch 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 worse 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....

Video Games

  • This is the backstory for Kadaj and his gang in Advent Children.
  • This fits Team K' in the King of Fighters games fairly well. Well, after they switch Whip out for Kula, anyways.
  • 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.
  • Jack, the Little Sisters, and presumably Tenenbaum in the good ending of Bioshock.
  • 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, though this troper heard something like the Cybran commander being Brackman's clone.
  • The Black Mage Village from Final Fantasy IX.
  • Pretty much the whole premise of Family Project.
  • 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, gather quite a band of Youkai followers that look up at her.

Web Comics

  • 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.

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 animals from I Am Not an Animal.
  • 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 was a group of metahuman teens (modelled on the powers of the Teen Titans and using the same voice actors from that show) which the Joker had liberated from the government's Project Cadmus and trained in supervillainy. The Ultimen (who were in turn a pastiche of the Ethnic Scrappy characters from Superfriends (and the Wonder Twins) are a borderline case, since technically they never quite succeeded 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.
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