The Quest for the Orb was a conflict centered around the possession of the Orb, an artifact which had housed the Power Stone. Desired by multiple parties, the galaxy-wide search escalated into a four-sided conflict between the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Tivan Group, the Yondu Ravager Clan, the Nova Corps, and the army of Sakaaran soldiers led by Kree radical Ronan the Accuser, who was working for Thanos.
The quest came to a peak on Knowhere, where the Guardians had attempted to sell the Orb to the Collector until Ronan's forces attacked and recovered the Orb. Upon learning the Orb was housing an Infinity Stone, Ronan betrayed Thanos to launch a full-scale invasion on the Xandarian homeworld, but was defeated by the Guardians. The Orb was handed into the custody of the Nova Corps, ending the immediate quest.
The seeds of the Quest for the Orb were sown under similar circumstances as the Chitauri Invasion. Like that conflict, the Quest for the Orb revolved around one of the six powerful object called the Infinity Stones; in particular, the Power Stone. Thanos, the notorious intergalactic despot and leader of the Chitauri armies, had been seeking the stones in order to wipe out half the life in the universe, and had been scouring the galaxy in search of them. The Power Stone had evaded his sights much longer than he would have liked, and he was forced to forge various alliances in order to find it. The most significant envoy Thanos came to deal with was Ronan the Accuser, a vicious, genocidal novitiate of the Kree Empire. Unable to cope with the Kree's newly appointed treaty with the Nova Empire, Ronan consistently terrorized Xandarian space in an attempt to cripple, of not completely destroy, the Xandarian people. In order to bring about the destruction of the Xandarian homeworld, Xandar, Ronan agreed to locate the Power Stone, which had been concealed in a high-tech orb millions of years ago by the Celestials, for Thanos in exchange for the forces needed to complete his ploy.
Thanos did not bother to tell Ronan what was inside of the Orb, believing that the truth of the Power Stone would deter Ronan away from his cause. To ensure that did not happen, Thanos tasked his two adopted daughters, Gamora and Nebula, to accompany the Kree. Also aiding Ronan was the notorious mercenary, Korath the Pursuer, and his squadron of Sakaarans warriors. Unknown to Thanos and Ronan, however, Gamora sought to separate herself from Thanos. When she learned that Taneleer Tivan, the infamous Collector, sought to add the Orb to his collection for a very hefty fee, she agreed to bring the Orb to him, hoping that his reward would give her the passage she needed to escape Thanos' hold.
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After a long train in Dervani and getting cybernetically enhanced, Nebula and Gamora along with Korath headed to Praxius IX believing the orb was hided in one of the Cloud Tombs of Praxius, while not finding the orb and being caught the natives, Nebula cut her arm off with a dagger given to her by Gamora and escaped from the captive device, later she was able to rebuild her arm with cybernetical new features.
Contacted by Taneleer Tivan
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When Taneleer Tivan obtained the Aether from Sif and Volstagg on Knowhere following the Second Dark Elf Conflict, he contacted Gamora to meet on Conjunction at the casino, there he told her that he would give her 4,000,000,000 units in exchange of the Orb, Gamora accepted just because she wanted to get away from Thanos.
Ronan the Accuser eventually discovered that the Orb had been hidden on Morag, thus he sent Korath the Pursuer to the planet. However, another of Tivan's contacts, an antiquity dealer known as the Broker, also sought to give the Orb to Tivan in exchange for the enormous fee, and hired the Ravagers to acquire it. Peter Quill, a human-Celestial hybrid Ravager who had been abducted from Earth as a child, traveled to Morag alone to steal the Orb and give it to the Broker and use the resulting payment to separate from the Ravagers and go solo. Both Quill and Korath converged on Morag, where Quill stole the Orb and quickly fled offworld in his ship, the Milano. In light of Quill's betrayal, Ravager leader Yondu Udonta had a bounty placed on Quill's head.
Peter Quill then took the Orb to Xandar, where he prepared to sell it to the Broker. However, when the Broker learned that Ronan also desired the Orb, he refused to take it, fearing for his life. Gamora, who had followed Quill to Xandar, attacked him and attempted to make off with the Orb, and the following struggle attracted the attention of the criminal duo of Rocket Raccoon and Groot, who had been pursuing Quill through Yondu Udonta's bounty. A chase ensued, after which the four were detained by the Nova Corps and taken to the Kyln, where they were imprisoned and the Orb was confiscated.
- "The only matter I do not take seriously, boy, is you. Your politics bore me. Your demeanor is that of a pouty child. And apparently, you alienated my favorite daughter, Gamora. I shall honor our agreement, Kree, if you bring me the Orb. But return to me again empty-handed... and I will bathe the starways in your blood."
- ―Thanos to Ronan[src]
Joining up with criminal Drax the Destroyer, they re-obtained the Orb and escaped from the prison. Meanwhile, Ronan learned from The Other that Gamora had other intentions with the Orb as she was planning to betray Thanos, whom he later meets with. Despite The Other being murdered by an enraged Ronan, Thanos threatened the Kree warrior with his life should he fail to deliver the Orb to him again. Afterward, Ronan and his allies arrived at the Kyln to retrieve Gamora, but they had already fled. Ronan then had all of the prisoners and Nova operatives killed.
Peter Quill, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, and Drax the Destroyer then traveled to Knowhere, where they handed the Orb to Tivan, who explained the history of the Power Stone and its capabilities. Carina, Tivan's tormented assistant, attempted to take the stone, but upon touching it, she accidentally triggered its power, releasing an energy pulse that killed her and destroyed most of the installation.
Drax, mad with the desire for revenge, had contacted Ronan while the others were meeting with Tivan, and the Kree and his forces swarmed over Knowhere almost immediately. While Nebula and the Sakaaran soldiers battled Gamora, Rocket, and Quill, Ronan engaged Drax one on one and easily bested him, leaving him for dead. Nebula and Gamora, piloting a Necrocraft and a mining pod, respectively, engaged in a brief dogfight out in open space, ending with Gamora being spaced and left for dead. Ronan the Accuser and Nebula then made off with the Orb. In order to save Gamora, Quill contacted Yondu Udonta, who picked up him and Gamora.
Meanwhile, after realizing the Orb contained one of the Infinity Stones, Ronan decided to double-cross Thanos out of spite due to Thanos' bereavement of him. He harnesses the power of the stone and forged it into his hammer, the Cosmi-Rod, vowing to destroy Xandar and then kill Thanos.
Ronan the Accuser began his attack on Xandar. Peter Quill attempted to use Rocket's Hadron Enforcer to destroy Ronan, but the Stone prevented him from being destroyed. After Ronan's ship, the Dark Aster, crashed onto Xandar, Ronan attempted to use the Cosmi-Rod to destroy Xandar once and for all, but was distracted by Quill's antics. Rocket shot Ronan's hammer with the Hadron Enforcer, destroying the hammer and releasing the Power Stone. Quill then caught the Stone, and through joining hands with Gamora, Rocket, and Drax, managed to withstand its power long enough to kill Ronan and allow the stone to be inserted into the container by Gamora.
As the chaos finally settled, Yondu Udonta forced Peter Quill to give him the Orb, and left Xandar with it. However, Quill had switched the containers, so he had given Udonta a doll inside a container rather than the stone. Quill entrusted the Orb to the Nova Corps on Xandar, who stored it in a high-security vault in the city. In return the Nova Corps pardoned Quill, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon and Drax the Destroyer, and rebuilt Quill's spaceship for him.
News of the battle spread to different sources, most notably Ego and the Kree Empire. The former was able to discern Quill's identity as his biological son thanks to the news that a seemingly normal human was able to handle an Infinity Stone and survive, leading to his own conflict with the group. The Kree Empire were outraged by Ronan's demise, and made Quill and his compatriots high profile targets by the Kree.
Years after Ronan's crusade for the Orb, Thanos would ultimately begin his galaxy-wide conquest for the Infinity Stones. Along with the Black Order, Thanos invaded Xandar, wiping out the Nova Corps and half of the planet's population in the process, before claiming the Orb from the Nova Corps Headquarters.