You can, at any time, leave the empire you are currently in.

If you select this, you will be given the choice between: Creating a new empire [with your current race] and joining a existing empire.

If you create a new empire while captaining a subsisized ship, the ship remains under control of the original empire although you are still the captain until you captain a different ship, or de-captain yourself. It would be of course, relatively easy to declare that empire your enemy, de-captain yourself, and then claim the ship by being on the helm for 30 seconds.

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