I've underlined some parts directly referencing the impact describing vapoursation and underlined and bolded the bit about energy conversion, though of course it says light rather than 'electromagnetic radiation' but I think the intention is clear.Know no fear wrote:The Campanile accelerates. It lights its main realspace drives, delivering main extending thrust in a position where it should be almost coasting at correction burst only. It raises its void shielding to make itself as unstoppable as possible. It fires itself like a bullet at the planet Calth.
The screams of its crew can still be heard, but no one is listening.
Main extending thrust is a drive condition used for principal acceleration, the maximum output that takes a starship to the brink of realspace velocity as it makes the translation to the empyrean. It is a condition that is used as a starship moves away from a planet towards the nearest viable Mandeville Point, a distance that is roughly half the radius of an average star system.
There is no such long run-up here. The Campanile is already inside the orbit of Calth’s satellite. There is not enough range for it to reach anything like maximum output or velocity. Even so, it is travelling at something close to the order of forty per cent of the realspace limit as it reaches the edge of the atmosphere. It is travelling too fast for anything physical, such as an eye or a pict-corder or a visual monitor, to see it. It is only visible to scanning systems and sensors, to detectors and auspex. They shriek at its sudden, savage, shockwave approach.
Their shrieks are as futile as the unheard screams of its lost crew.
It does not hit Calth.
There is something in the way.
The Campanile streaks like a missile into Calth’s orbital shipping belt. It punches through the formations of ships in parking orbit, the rows of freighters, barges and troop vessels at high anchor, the precisely spaced lines of vast cruisers and frigates, the glittering clouds of small craft, loaders, lifters and boats attending the parent ships.
It is like a bolter round fired into a crowd.
It misses the Mlatus, the Cavascor, the Lutine and the Samothrace by less than a ship’s length. It passes under the beam of the battleship Ultimus Mundi and skims the back of the gargantuan carrier ship Testament of Andromeda. Its shields graze the hull of the strike craft Mlekrus, vaporising the masts and arrays of its starboard detectors. It slices between the battle-barges Gauntlet of Victory and Gauntlet of Glory. By the time it crosses the bow of the grand cruiser Suspiria Majestrix, shredding the mooring and fuelling lines that secure the famous vessel to its bulk tenders, the Campanile has begun to swat aside small craft, annihilating them against the front of its shields. The small ships disintegrate, fierce blue sparks fizzle against the shield shimmer: cargo boats, lighters, ferries, maintenance riggers. The Campanile’s shield displacement hurls others out of the way like a tidal bore, swirling into each other, compressing them with gravimetric thrust, crashing them against the hulls of larger ships or the support cradles of the outer orbital yards.
Then the Campanile reaches the main shipyard.
The Calth Yards are orbiting islands, the fledgling beginnings of the planet’s first proper superorbital plate. There are a dozen of them orbiting Calth. This is Calth Veridian Anchor, the largest and oldest of them. It is a massive edifice of jetties and slips, ship cradles and docks, suspension manufactories, habitats, depots and docking platforms. It is a little over three hundred kilometres across, a raft of metal and activity and life.
The Campanile hits it, creating light. Void shields moving at high sub-light velocities strike physical matter, and mutually annihilate. The tender simply vaporises the Ultramar Azimuth Graving Dock, shredding the superstructure of the giant berth cradle, and the cruiser Antipathy docked inside it. Cut in half, the nine kilometre-long Antipathy vanishes in a ripple of rapidly expanding heat and light as its drives detonate, and six thousand lives disappear with it. The blast incinerates the two manufactory modules adjoining the graving dock, instantly killing another thirty thousand artificers and engineers, and shears the superstructure away from arrestor silos A112 and A114, both of which collapse sideways, spilling the escort Burnabus into the fast escort Jeriko Rex. Both vessels suffer catastrophic hull damage. The Burnabus crushes and deforms like a spent shell case.
The Campanile is still moving. As the Ultramar Azimuth Graving Dock disintegrates behind it, it punches on through Assembly 919, a hollow spheroid currently housing the Menace of Fortis, the Deliverance of Terra and the Mechanicum fabrication ship Phobos Encoder. All three ships are obliterated. The assembly spheroid ruptures like a glass ball. Propelled debris rips into attached habitat modules, voiding them to space. Part of the Phobos Encoder is flung out of the explosion and spins into the yard’s principal cargo facility, which buckles laterally. This secondary impact destroys forty-nine lift ships and one hundred and sixty-eight small lighters and ferries. Cargo pods and transportation containers spew out like beads from a snapped necklace, like grains of rice from a ripped sack. They spill, tumbling. Some start to glow blowtorch blue as they plunge into the high atmosphere.
Calth Veridian Anchor shudders. Internal explosions propagate through it, driven along by the devastating trajectory of the Campanile. Habitats and depots blow out. Jetties collapse. Manipulator cranes buckle and fold like wading birds struck by a hunter’s buckshot. The Aegis of Occluda catches fire, all seven kilometres of it, in its ship cradle. The Triumph of Iax, secured in an arrestor slip, is crippled as a storm of debris penetrates it. Its secondary drives implode, ripping the massive ship through ninety degrees like a man being swung by his ankles. The bow, still encased in its slip housing framework, encounters the Tarmus Usurper, which is being fitted out in the adjacent slip. The collision mangles them, tears them, lacerates their hulls. Atmospherics void explosively from rent hull plates, aerosol jets filled with particles that are tiny, tumbling bodies.
Light blossoms. The annihilation of matter is vast, and light is the only form in which it can escape. The battleship Spirit of Konor, seventeen kilometres long and one of the most powerful warships in the fleet of the Five Hundred Worlds, ignites, and then vanishes as critical damage compromises its power plants and vast munitions stockpiles. Huge, burning sections of the yard structure are ejected upwards, whirling, into space, or are spat down at the world beneath. The Ultramar Zenith Graving Dock suffers integral gravimetric failure and drops out, breaking and twisting towards the planet below. The grand cruiser Antrodamicus, supported by that dock, rips free of its moorings and begins to slide backwards out of the collapsing cradle, in some ghastly parody of a ship launch. Its drives are off-line. It has no power to prevent its slide or stabilise its position, at least nothing that can be lit or brought to bear fast enough. It is a huge ship, twelve kilometres long. It simply slips away backwards, like a vast promontory of ice calving from a glacier into the sea.
The Campanile is still moving. Its shields finally fail and it is just a solid projectile, a mass of metal. It annihilates two more slipways, and the ships within them, cripples the anchored carrier Johanipus Artemisia, and then rams through the data-engine hub in the centre of the yard structure. All the data-engines are destroyed instantly. The automatics fail. The noosphere experiences a critical and fatal interrupt. Another thirty-five thousand individuals perish as the yard’s core is obliterated.
Impact has virtually erased the unshielded mass of the Campanile. Its structure is atomised, except for the largest chunks of it, which punch onwards as the ship breaks up, still travelling at immensely high realspace velocities, communicating billions of tonnes of force. The largest surviving piece, a part of the Campanile’s solid-core drive section, spins out like a ricochet and kills the battleship Remonstrance of Narthan Dume like a slingshot pellet to the brainpan.
The final pieces of the Campanile clear the far side of Calth Veridian Anchor and spray on out across the planet, scattering, dipping and burning like meteorites.
This entire catastrophe has taken less than a second to occur. It has been entirely silent, a light-blink in the soundless void.
All that any observers – either on nearby vessels or the surface of the planet – would have seen was a blinding flash, like a star going nova, that was instantly replaced by a propagating series of overlapping, expanding fireballs that consume the entire sky.
Of course, the Calth incident is not typical, and is a rare example of a ramming that the author intends to be relativistic, as usually ships seem to be moving at far less speed than that when they engage one another; most rammings don't destroy several ships and vapourise the ramming ship once its shields drop, after all. Though honestly, outside of memes I have a hard time thinking of a ramming actually happening in the novels.