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My character is a Master's student in computer science. He stumbled upon a sort of mini-terrorist cell trying to cause trouble and is now being held hostage by them. They are trying to run a virus provided to them by another terriorst group as the first stage of their plan, but it doesn't seem to be working for them. They decide to force the protagonist to fix the problem so they can continue with their plan, under threat of killing him if he can't get the virus to run by the time phase 2 of their plan is due. The programmer is being watched very closely by an armed terrorist, but one that does not appear to have technical expertise.

A quick ping of an IP address confirms the computer the programmer is being forced to work with has internet connectivity. Considering this the programmer should be able to send a warning from the terminal while pretending to try to fix the virus. However, he needs to do it in a manner that will not make the man with the gun behind him suspicious.

I'm looking for a good way for him to get his call for help out to someone who will see and act on it without someone watching him realizing he is doing it. While the terrorist doesn't have any technical understanding if he sees something like:

echo "Help, I'm being held hostage in a programming factory"

The terrorist will guess that this is a cry for help even if he doesn't know what echo or any other parts of the command does. Likewise our programmer is competent with linux (or whatever OS works best for this), but he doesn't know some of the more advanced features and can't check online for obvious reasons, though he could use Man pages if he knows the name what to look up, so some tricks may not be available to him. He knows friends e-mail addresses, the ip address to a number of computers shared with other developers at the school, and even has the authority to update some school webpages etc. He needs to figure out how to contact any of these resources he knows without the terrorist guessing what he is doing, including not writing any string that is obviously a call for help directly.

He also needs to be relatively certain that whatever he does is seen within the next few hours so their is time for someone to act on it. Finally, he wants to be certain he did it right, last thing he wants is a forgotten comma or semicolon to result in his message not making it to anyone.

Given this what is the most elegant way for him to send a cry for help and/or warning out from his terminal?

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    $\begingroup$ So, you have your characters in a known world (Earth) and you want to know how they go about achieving a plot element. How is this about worldbuilding? $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Nov 2 '17 at 16:05
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    $\begingroup$ He can always write a mail and use unicode or UTF-4 or something (which he might remember because he recently wrote a test about it). But yeah, I think this is one for the code golfers (they are useful for a change!) $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Nov 2 '17 at 16:12
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    $\begingroup$ You may wish to lose a day or two reading about underhanded programing obfuscated programing and codegolf Warning: If you are a programmer you may lose much more time than that. $\endgroup$ – user25818 Nov 2 '17 at 16:22
  • $\begingroup$ This is a really fun question but I don't think it's about worldbuilding. $\endgroup$ – Green Nov 2 '17 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ The easy way is just to write an array of char codes in bytes and then print them. Nobody just glancing at the code without programming knowledge would know what it's doing. $\endgroup$ – A. C. A. C. Nov 2 '17 at 17:22
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To your non-programmer terrorist, everything your write is gibberish. So instead of writing bluntly "Help, I'm being held hostage in a programming factory", construct character by character a string as a meaningless variable throughout a complex suite of instructions, then "echo" this variable. As an exemple :

normal_instruction.do_something();
let prt = "H";
complicated_suite.of(instructions);
if(1==1) prt += 'e';
I_AM_REALLY_WORKING = true;
let tbl = ['l', 'p', ' '];
for(c in tbl) prt += c;
assert(terrorist.trusts_me());
echo prt;

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