Shchuka. An ambush predator carnivorous fish - known in English as the Pike, because it resembles a pole-arm. In every generation a Russian submarine has carried the name, from the 5th sub to enter Russian under the tsar service in 1905, an 88 boat strong type in world war two, and both the the project 671 and 971 attack boats (NATO Victor and Akula respectively)
Today, that proud tradition Hull number 409, GRU Designation 9K0108, known to NATO as the "Nikta Class" Submarine Cruiser. Nominally a very large attack boat for hunting other subs, it also carried a dozen anti-ship cruise missile conformal launchers, and four intermediate range ballistic missiles - more firepower than some 20th century navies. All under the watchful eyes of 83 crew, and the head of that compliment - one Yuri Deatalov.
"Surface Contact Sir. Range is 15,000 meters, probably a cargo vessel."
"Is it the one we've been trying to track?"
"Yes captain - definitely has the banging pistons of a fuel burner."
"Must be something good if they're risking something that old and large in the Baltic winter. Yes. But a bit too good - clear tube four to launch an airborne reconnaissance drone."
A few English sub-hunters were still out there, and an old piston cargo vessel would go a long way to mask their pump-jets. They usually kept themselves to the channel and north sea - but this was excellent weather for a chase - clear yet cold enough to cut down on thermal layers that could distort sonar. Certainly, a rare combination around here, and no good captain would miss this chance.
"Unit telemetry confirmed - it should get a fly over in a few minutes."
"I know your not much of a gambler Mr. Chuikov, but do you care to wager on what the drone might find?"
"Uh, not really sir."
"Not in my religion to do that Captain."
"Ah, yes - we've been over that. However, I have no interest in debating Islamic dogma - I just wanted a guess about what vessels are out there."
"Sergi is better at this than I."
"All the more reason you need the practice. Its bad enough I needed to take a sonar man from a surface ship - an incompetent and un-cross trained one would be unbearable. I can ask the others to leave the bridge if you would be embarrassed by your answers."
"Well then, captain Deatalov, I'd say its safe - just the freighter. Prior to this, they've been mostly milk runs encountering smaller vessels. Something this large is operating out of a different port - which may not be allied, and would take a lot of resources and manpower to get working. The military bases are covered by our surface combatants and its unlikely they'd store arms at a commercial facility. It takes a certain level of expertise to move a multi-tone explosive tipped weapon from its stores to a train, and cranes positioned just right and trained to load them."
"Not a question of should it be escorted, but are they able to?"
"Right. Most of the coastal fuel bunkers are drained, and the ones further inland probably not known to or unfriendly with the English."
"I don't know how you're so sure of that, but you at least have a point."
"And what would be the captain's stance?"
"It doesn't really matter. Fortune favors the bold after all. If there is a warship, then we shouldn't be bringing our other precious fleet units into harms way. If there isn't - then we get the glory of this capture all to ourselves. Set Condition Red! Intercept course! WE're going to eat well when we return to port."