- "The Orb is much more important than you realize. I wonder how many other players are caught up in this game? Things may be about to get quite fascinating..."
- ―Taneleer Tivan
The Quest for the Orb, was an interstellar conflict involving notorious personalities throughout the galaxy. Centered around the Infinity Stone known as the Orb, the conflict started as a four-way altercation between the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Ravagers, the Nova Corps, and the Kree warrior Ronan's army of Sakaarans mercenaries and Thanos loyalists, all of whom desired the artifact for different purposes. After various battles, the former three factions joined forces to battle Ronan over the Orb's final possession in the Battle of Xandar.
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 for as of now unknown purposes, 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.
The Quest Begins
- Main article: Escape from the Kyln
Through Tivan, Gamora passed the Orb's location to Ronan without giving away her source, and the Kree subsequently sent Korath to the planet Morag, where the Orb was hidden. 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 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.
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'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. Joining up with criminal Drax the Destroyer, they re-obtained the Orb and escaped from the prison. 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.
Quill, Gamora, Rocket, Groot, and Drax 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 and Nebula then made off with the Orb. In order to save Gamora, Quill contacted Yondu, 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' beratement 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. 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 Raccoon shot Ronan's hammer with the Hadron Enforcer, destroying the hammer and releasing the Stone. Star-Lord then caught the Stone, and through joining hands with Gamora, Rocket, and Drax the Destroyer, managed to withstand its power long enough to destroy Ronan and be inserted into the container by Gamora. Yondu Udonta then forced Quill to give him the Orb, and flew away with it. However, Quill had switched the containers, so he had given Yondu 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 and Drax, and rebuilt Quill's spaceship.