# How can a non-person enter society and live a normal life?

One day, you run into a young man (~20 years old) who has spent his life in a laboratory being weaponized by the state until he finally escaped. He is a non-person, there is no public record of his existence. Now he just wants to live a normal life. Attending college is an especially attractive idea, but also getting a job afterward and so-on.

How could he become a citizen?

How could he attend college without having ever gone through high school? He has already been taught roughly up to a middle school level.

Whatever he does, he has to be quiet about it, because his captors are looking for him. Threatening someone is a last resort, but he can easily make a threat look credible when necessary.

For the sake of the question let's say that he already has a proper understanding of what a "normal life" is.

• Very close to worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/20298/…
– o.m.
Sep 19 '15 at 18:44
• You have many different questions here, and can structure your world in different ways depending on the answers. Is the point to become a citizen, or to have credentials sufficient to lead a visible life? Should those credentials let him find a decent job or let him not be expelled when he founds the next Google? Does he need a degree or just the knowledge he might gather by attending classes? Sep 21 '15 at 3:43
• Didn't Jarod already set a good example? Sep 21 '15 at 4:52
• I'd like to suggest that by calling this individual a "non-person", you are improperly conflating citizenship with personhood. Anyone with a philosophy background will certainly notice this, and many more will object to the idea that merely being unrecognized by the government makes someone a "non-person". I realize you're coming at it from a different angle, and in fact you could examine this aspect of philosophy in your world, however I still think that you need to be careful what terms you throw around without awareness. Jan 21 '16 at 5:17
• @ErikE Nonperson. Noun. a: a person who is regarded as nonexistent. b: one having no social or legal status. - Merriam-Webster. Jan 21 '16 at 18:27

In reality, the first thing he should do is to either hit the media and sell out his story for some millions of \$ AND get permanent rid of his captors or hit the supreme court, sue his captors, drop the charges for some millions of dollars AND again get rid of his captors (as they won't be able to continue this program anymore).

Ahem ahem. OK I understand we are not dealing with real life here :(

OK, so your character wants to stay out of public attention. That is possible, but in that case, forget any idea about enrolling in any university or whatever. There are two basic reasons for it.

a- his captors, being a powerful agency, would easily track him down through digital records (specially if the college keeps its records online openly)

b- he has no source for making money. so his first preference should be to financially support himself AND find a means to get rid of the ever-hanging sword of his captors

As for his job, he could join a martial arts / self defense gym as an instructor and earn whatever meager sum of money they pay him. This is something he is best at, and doesn't need any training or fail at any prerequisites. He would also have to join some other little job (like a fuel station or something). Make sure he joins a job where he doesn't have to travel much, enter buildings with security cams or face a lot of new public faces daily.

After he has firmly rooted himself in the social life, he can now think about getting a large scale change in his appearance. Permanently dye his hair and change his hairstyle. Maybe get a minor plastic surgery on his face etc.

After this, he is ready to get some home-schooling (he would look weird joining a school at the age of 23-24, the first 3-4 years used in rooting himself in the society). After the home-schooling period (some 5-6 years), he can finally hope to join a college.

• I would recommend him to do the hairstyle change and dye at the beginning. It's pretty much inexpensive, and that way the people he meetsk (such as his boss) will know him by his new appearance, as well as avoiding uncomfortable questions on why did he completely change his hairstyle. Sep 19 '15 at 20:59
• Word up. True. I keep missing little points like these all the time lol. Sep 20 '15 at 2:55
• Actually the first paragraph, albeit you consider it a quasi-joke, looks to me a great answer, better than the rest of the post! Could you post it as a separate answer? Yes, AFAIK you are allowed to post two answers to the same question.
– o0'.
Sep 20 '15 at 14:32
• Thing is, OP is not asking for advice about what should the character do once he escapes the prison but how can he escape the captors and live an exposure-free life. Whatever he does, he has to be quiet about it. So while my story of such a character would be much different than his, I should not impose my ideas on him about how the character should behave. Sep 20 '15 at 14:50
• Sue the government about illegal things the government did? Sure, that's completely likely to work and not to lead them to recapture you. Sep 20 '15 at 22:06

I think first you need to define what he learned during the time he was being weaponized. How does he know what college is, much less whether he really wants to attend? If he was kept in seclusion for weaponization, he was likely brainwashed as well. He probably has no correct notion of what real life is.

You might want to read about the rehabilitation of child soldiers, who go through traumatic battle experiences during their early years of life and essentially need to relearn, or learn for the first time, what it is to lead a healthy and non-destructive lifestyle.

• Welcome to the community. And word up for the eye-opener. I missed that part in my answer. Sep 19 '15 at 15:28

Could the character pretend to be an illegal alien who wants to legalize his status? For obvious reasons most countries don't make that easy, but it is usually possible. And who would believe that somebody who admits being an illegal alien is actually an AWOL local?

This person legal status, for all practical purposes, will be pretty much like an illegal immigrant in your country. He has no papers, no official recognition; and he shouldn't make the authorities aware he is there. His only advantage is that his accent is probably indistinguishable from the locals, so people will likely think a priori that he is a citizen.

Enrolling at the University is out of the question, as it requires ID and money. But that doesn't mean he cannot pretend to be a student, attend lectures, study on his own, and take on mini jobs targeted for college students. These are commonly unofficial, so he won't need documents nor leave a paper trail. Again, people won¡t think he is an illegal alien, so they won't get suspicious when he doesn't provide official papers.

He won't be able to take exams, but he can make up a backstory saying he comes from a very poor family that cannot afford tuition (if there is such a thing in your country), but he is there for the knowledge.

• Of note, some universities, like mine, won't allow you to attend lectures without enrolling or auditing, which requires an ID. For very large classes, it wouldn't be hard to blend in with the crowd, but in a smaller class it would be obvious he doesn't belong. That said, a quick Google search says that lots of people (including Steve Jobs) have done it, so it's hardly impossible, and not all schools have the auditing requirement. Sep 20 '15 at 8:16
• This is spot on. He needs to buy a fake ID. Attending college is probably not hard, but it looks like OP wants the college to issue an official degree. That is harder because you need a previous record that will get you admitted in the first place. Sep 21 '15 at 3:35

What country is are we talking about? It will be somewhat easier in countries that do not require IDs, i.e. USA (where he might be considered just an illegal alien).

How well does he speak the dominant language(s) of the country? Assuming his captors kept talking with him enough to develop reasonable language skills - this is not a trivial assumption at all.

His bet bet would be probably to find a group of people without documents, arriving to a different culture to cover his appearance, so that his lack of cultural skills, personal history and language would not be so suspicious. However, this might be problematic if he does not speak the language of the group he claims to be a part of.

If successful, he will get an asylum, residence permit, documents, a work permit and maybe a citizenship in some years.

• And a whole lot of record trail which would be picked up by anyone resourceful enough to dig into govt records ... Sep 20 '15 at 14:52
• @ Youstay Igo Well, yes, and it will show a poor refugee from (say) Syria who arrived without any documents years ago, and lived peacefully ever after... Sep 20 '15 at 15:34
• Ahem. Of course you have the right to express your opinion and I respect that. I just expressed my views about your perspective :p No offense. Sep 20 '15 at 15:39

You might look into what happens in real-life cases, like Alecia Pennington's, which involved thousands of hours of legal effort. A Texas legislator later introduced a bill to help expedite the process. This suggests to me that within the U.S., the process varies by state. I don't know about outside the U.S., but I imagine it depends on the laws in any given country/region.

As for attending college: In the U.S., many private schools accept students on the basis of SAT/ACT scores and an admissions essay (this is how I got into college). At least some public schools require a diploma or a GED (for example, Florida state schools did in the mid-1990s). You still need ID to take the SAT, but you don't need to have a private/public school transcript to get into college somewhere.

I don't know about community colleges in general, but I took some community college courses in Tennessee my senior year of "high school." They wanted a transcript of my high school courses, which didn't exist, but someone in the admissions office made an error and admitted me anyway, though your readers might find that too big a coincidence even though it's happened in real life.

Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out has links to help homeschool alumni transitioning to outside life without parental support. Resources aimed at people raised in cults may also help.

I think his best option would be to just talk to the local police and explain the situation. They should have the presence of mind to keep his case out of the public spotlight while they figured out how to integrate him into society.

It's not that difficult to go through high school a few years late (I've helped several people get GEDs in their mid-20s), at which point he could continue life as normal. Of course, there are all the psychological problems that would likely be much more difficult to overcome, as Pedro pointed out.

Now, you did mention that "the state" was the one experimenting on him. If it was sanctioned by the state, then his best bet would be to go to a different country to explain to those local police. If it wasn't sanctioned by the state, the state shouldn't have any problems putting an end to the threat and putting him in witness protection.

Of course, he might not know if it was state sanctioned or not, in which case it would probably be best to assume it was and run.

• Or they have the presence of mind to cash in, which means he's screwed... Sep 20 '15 at 19:47
• That's not really "presence of mind". That's "betray everything you stand for". It's possible, of course, but the police force wouldn't last very long if officers commonly sold out to the bad guys. Unless the bad guys bought out the entire police force, which goes back to "state-sanctioned". Sep 20 '15 at 21:41

He could create a false back story with documentation. One relatively well known method is to take on the identity of someone who would have been around the same age but died as a child. This was described in Frederick Forsyth's thriller novel The Day of The Jackal, and it was used by British police on long term undercover operations.

• Except the SS#s these days are checked against the death index. AFIAK this tactic no longer works. Sep 19 '15 at 22:10

He can pretend to be paperless, which probably isn't the smartest idea, since authorities are looking for him.

Instead, he could look into obtaining a forged background. Passports of some countries are actually very cheap, and if you take a war torn country they can't even verify if the password is real, because the original documents no longer exist. So at worst you get deported.

The easiest way to attend college is to simply sit in the lectures and participate. You'll need to be enrolled to finish with a degree, but in some classes an additional student sitting there and learning certainly wouldn't be noticed.

In terms of a job, as someone with a military background, young and healthy, not much of an education, hiding from someone, the status of an illegal immigrant, I guess there's already a very clear career path which also gives access to much better forgers.

The answer depends largely on the setting. The country & year for Earth... and in any case, the details of the culture and laws and who is looking for him and how they do that and what he and whoever might help him know about the search methods of the people looking for him.

I think it's also vital to look critically at what "normal" means to this person, to different groups of people in the culture where he is, and to you as the author/worldbuilder. There is of course no one true "normal", and the situation you describe is set up to explore that, and the blindspots the author and readers and the culture have around what "normal" means.

As for your practical sub-questions:

How could he become a citizen?

Depends on the culture, laws, administrative details, and the person's knowledge of those, skills, and the situation with the people looking for him and his travel opportunities. Before the 21st Century, it was much easier to do even in Western cultures. If the person has infiltration training (e.g. if he was trained to be an anonymous agent something like Jason Bourne), he may have been given many skills and techniques for doing this sort of thing. It may be helpful to travel to a different country before trying, e.g. by sneaking aboard a freighter, or crossing a border via deep forest, or stealing a private boat or small plane.

How could he attend college without having ever gone through high school? He has already been taught roughly up to a middle school level.

There are free online college courses available that don't require anything other than an email address, or perhaps less than that. Or there are foreign schools. Or he can study the admin offices of less rigorous colleges and figure out how to fool them. Some admin offices aren't terribly foolproof and could be fooled. If you look at stories of people struggling to correct their information with admin offices, and turn them around to realize that some students have been going to school with wrong information just by clerical accident, then you could see how it would be possible. But the person needs to somehow realize this is a possibility, perhaps by meeting someone with experience who gives him the idea. If he's has some sort of human manipulation skills, too he could just get the support of someone in the admin staff (e.g. by seducing them or bribing them or blackmailing them or intimidating them) so that they fake his credentials for him. Or maybe he simply has (or knows someone who has) forging skills.

Note that he could also do things like join the French Foreign Legion, or a religious order or other group that is willing to take in humans and vouch for them as a member of their group, and that has a trust relationship with governments.

Buying a identity that is the only way to effectively become a citizen or to steal one. Since your protagonist needs to hide from his captor the best way is to well share a identity with someone who is dead dying or paralyzed. There is a movie from 1997 called Gattaca where a person buys one from a paralyzed person in return for well money.

So find a drug addict/homeless and pretend to be him in return give they guy money. Just remember that not a goverment agencies doesn't have many pictures of you if you didn't come into contact with them often. Any questions asked like birth certificate can be bought from his parents with enough cash.

In the book a girl with a dragon tattoo a supposed to be deceased person used her sister's passport to move to australia and marry a guy. She got a australian passport and suddenly there were 2 persons living in different parts of the world. And yes a marriage certificate was sent back to the country of origin but the fact that there were two different home addresses one in each country wasn't noticed. ANd since an australian passport was used in australia no cross checking was done. As Long as the sister didn't marry herself all was okay.