WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Sonic the Hedgehog #44, on sale now from IDW.
Sonic's world has been a bit chaotic recently. If having to contend with the effects of Eggman's latest schemes wasn't bad enough, the Deadly Six reunited to wreak havoc on the peacekeeping organization known as The Restoration. To make matters worse, in all of the chaos and confusion, another of Sonic's worst enemies saw their opportunity to enact their own plans - and kidnap one of his friends.
Dr. Starline, Eggman's former protege and fanboy, snuck into the Restoration's HQ for one thing and one thing only - to kidnap Belle the Tinkerer. Thanks to everyone else being distracted, he did just that and is free to do whatever he wants with the friendly Badnik. After dealing with the Deadly Six, Sonic and friends immediately get to work hunting down Belle in Sonic the Hedgehog #44 by Ian Flynn, Tracy Yardley, Matt Froese, Matt Herms and Shawn Lee. Unfortunately, they're already far behind Starline, which gives the mad scientist enough time to get exactly what he needs.
Previous issues showed that Starline needed Belle for his latest plan and that she's somehow the key to something bigger. Seeing how the evil genius fawns over how the friendly Badnik is crafted shows that what he's after is a special kind of design - the kind that only Mr. Tinker could make. Mr. Tinker was the kind and compassionate persona Dr. Eggman adopted when he lost his memory all the way back in the early issues of Sonic's IDW run. Though the hedgehog and his friends naturally had their suspicions about Eggman's amnesiac one-eighty, they ultimately decided that he had changed for the better and let him help others. However, Mr. Tinker met his end thanks to Dr. Starline, who shocked the friendly inventor back into his evil ways with the help of Metal Sonic.
Though Eggman is the one Starline wanted, he's now regretting erasing Mr. Tinker, or rather, he's regretting erasing Mr. Tinker's expertise. It turns out that the friendly inventor's way of designing things is different from his evil alter ego. With a kinder heart, Mr. Tinker came up with new ways of creating that he never would have as Eggman and now never will again. This uniqueness makes Belle herself very valuable. Belle delves into her own history here and explains what happened to her after Mr. Tinker disappeared. When Eggman's horrific Metal Virus hit the town he once devoted himself to, Belle was alone. When the townspeople returned to normal, they believed the friendly Badnik was a spy for Eggman. They broke apart all of Mr. Tinker's inventions and rejected Belle at every turn. She left the town in search of her lost creator and met Sonic and Tails.
The fact that the townspeople destroyed the rest of Mr. Tinker's inventions is part of what makes Belle so valuable to Starline. She's one of the last remaining pieces of the inventor's unique work. Why that work is so important to Starline is shown when Belle finds out he's the one that took her father away from her. Starline is fascinated by her emotional response most of all. Her love and devotion to her creator and her anger at Starline are all real, something which Eggman could never dream of emulating.
Belle is soon saved by the Chaotix crew but, regardless, Starline got what he wanted. With the emotional readings he recorded whilst listening to Belle's tragic backstory, he can replicate her code and apply it to whatever mysterious invention he's working on. Though this is bad in and of itself, it's heartbreaking to see what he put Belle through to get it. Even if he sees her emotions as another invention to poke and prod in the name of science, her emotions are still real and now she'll have to rely on the kindness of her friends to recover from this traumatic ordeal.
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