Chapter 14:

Exploiting Vulnerabilities

who I am is not who I want to be

In the year 2017, Karma entered the city of Kyoto with a singular goal: to exact revenge on her father, Mr. Manzo. To remain as anonymous as possible, she drastically changed her appearance, dyeing her hair and shedding her long locks. This was the same year when Karma reached out to me, a crucial moment in our intertwined destinies.

In July 2017, I received an acceptance letter from an organization specializing in training young hackers. My classes at their training camp were scheduled to commence in December 2017. Overjoyed, I shared my acceptance letter on my Instagram story, viewing it as a monumental achievement. I rushed to my mother, asking her to read the letter for me, my heart pounding with excitement.

"Congratulations, Zack," my mother exclaimed. "I'm thrilled that you've been selected for the certified ethical hacker training camp."

In August 2017, Karma entered my life. Her own experience with the organization and her knowledge of my impending enrollment made me the perfect target in her eyes. Before directly contacting me, she had been observing my online presence. My acceptance letter was the key that prompted her to approach me. She saw an opportunity to exploit my connection to the Cyber Detectives organization, to unravel its inner workings and to keep tabs on her adversaries.

What set me apart from the other young hackers she had encountered was my emotional vulnerability. Karma had learned that to harness someone as a long-term tool or bait, she needed to forge a deep emotional connection. Her past experience with her father had taught her that once a person's vulnerabilities were exposed, they became susceptible to manipulation.

Reflecting on her own experiences, Karma came to the realization that humans, much like machines, could be hacked once their vulnerabilities were identified. She understood that to transform a person into a loyal, compliant entity, she had to guide them through the five phases of hacking.

The first phase, reconnaissance, involved gathering information about the target. In this case, the target was me. Karma spent five months meticulously gathering information about me. This information would be invaluable in the next phase.

Phase two, scanning, centered on finding my emotional weaknesses. She aimed to gain my trust, knowing that only then would I open up and reveal my emotional vulnerabilities. She did not rush this process; instead, she took her time to pinpoint precisely what made me emotionally vulnerable. This phase lasted nearly a year.

What I was entirely unaware of was that Karma was gradually uncovering my weaknesses in order to exploit them. Like most humans, I was inherently emotional, and my feelings played a significant role in my decision-making process. Karma realized that understanding what a person feared and what they loved was the key to their emotional vulnerabilities.

Karma's plan was slowly taking shape. She saw an opportunity to exploit me emotionally and potentially use me as a tool to gain insights into the inner workings of the Cyber Detectives organization. She invested time in nurturing our friendship, all while silently probing my vulnerabilities.

To me, Karma had become a trusted friend and mentor. I was utterly oblivious to her ulterior motives. My friends and family had always been my greatest treasures, and I couldn't fathom losing any of them. Karma had swiftly become one of my dearest friends, making her my emotional vulnerability. My attachment to her grew with each passing day. It was a one-sided emotional connection, as Karma had no emotional investment in me. Her heart was consumed by a thirst for revenge, leaving no room for emotions. Instead, she filled that void with the pain of others.

I found myself expressing my emotions freely whenever Karma was around. I couldn't help it; she had a way of making me feel comfortable enough to share my feelings. She was aware of my emotional vulnerabilities, and it was clear that I was her perfect bait.

Bingo! She had successfully identified herself as my emotional vulnerability, a tool she could use to further her plans. However, she didn't rush into the next phase. She stayed with me, deepening our connection and making me even more vulnerable to her influence.

All the while, I believed that our friendship was flourishing. Karma appeared increasingly kind and considerate, her actions demonstrating her growing attachment to me. She brought me homemade lunches on multiple occasions, a gesture that made me feel cherished. Every Saturday, she made an effort to bring lunch for me.

One day, during a New Year's festival, Karma rushed to me, breathing heavily as she handed me sushi. I asked if she had prepared it herself, and she replied with a hint of frustration, "Is it not obvious that I made it? I spent three hours crafting this sushi for you."

I quickly assured her, "Of course, it's evident. You clearly put a lot of effort into this. Thank you for going to all that trouble. It reminds me of the sushi my mom used to make."

Karma's gestures made me feel exceptionally special. Each act of kindness reinforced my emotional attachment to her, unbeknownst to me that I had become a pawn in her grand scheme.