“Call Me Maelzel” by Don Trotter checks all the boxes.
It’s a comedic space opera short story published in the Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine, August 1976, and contains the expression '(in) durance vile.'
The story is told in the shipboard's computer point of view.
You can call me Maelzel. Or Mazey for short. That’s not my real
acronym, its my social, or programming one. My real acronym looks
like the name of a Czech mathematician and sounds like a garbage can
trying to sneeze. So Dr. Turkell dubbed me “Maelzel,” after the
character in the Poe story. His idea of a joke. It also shows the
limits of his intellect, since “Maelzel” was the name of the owner of
the mechanical chess player, not the man inside. To be consistent, he
should have called me “Schlumberger.” I’m just as glad he didn’t.
- Plays tricks on its crew to keep them alert
She seems to do it as much for their mental benefit as for her own.
And when you’ve got that kind of cash to play around with, you don’t
pinch pennies on the computer. Oh, no. Only the best will do, the
biggest, fastest, most chrome-encrusted computer made. Me. Poor little
Mazey. Never mind the fact that I was built to talk physics with
Einstein, write poetry with Eliot, play duets with Rubenstein. Pretend
you don’t know that I’m gigabytes smarter and decades faster than the
computer who runs the Library of the Assembly. Disregard the truth
that I can run this ship with both neuristors tied behind me. Act as
if my being stuck here running this little carbon-crystal cruiser isn’t
as much waste of talent as Toscanini conducting a kazoo chorus. Just
be godawful sure you don’t look as if you’re cutting corners.
So here I sit, staring off into hyperspace (which is about as exciting
as being buried in Cream of Wheat), while my subconscious flushes the
toilets and steers around singularities. About all I’ve got to do is
keep tabs on a half-dozen humans, keep them safe from ghosties and
ghoulies and the common cold. And from time to time I try to enrich an
otherwise deficient psychological environment. When they’ll let me
play with them. But right now, I have no thumbs, and I must twiddle.
- They think it goes too far
They sure don’t appreciate the
pranks psychological workout.
“Our own resident gremlin,” Clarisse said disapprovingly. They were
starting to gang up on me now. Also as anticipated. She apported up
out of the pool in one easy motion and started to squeeze water from
the skirt of her bathing dress.
“The bitch glitch,” Sash agreed with her. “And with one hell of a
short memory, considering.”
“Sash!” Tilly reproved her husband.
He looked unrepentant. “‘Bitch’ is standard usage for a female
glitch, darling, just like for a female dog.”
“Possibly. But ‘glitchette’ conveys the same information and is less
offensive. I wish you’d remember that next time... but I hope there
won’t be one. That was a very naughty thing for her to do.”
- Computer is shut down as punishment
‘Durance Vile’ being actually the shut down command.
“I agree,” said Juan, “and suggest that Durance Vile is appropriate. Lloyd?”
“Yes! A whole day.”
“Too much,” Chyme said. “Three hours.”
“A day.” Lloyd was insistent.
A day was a lot more than I’d bargained for. I blinked Jehovah’s eye
at them to get their attention. “Now just a minute, folks,” I said.
“That’s hardly fair.”
Juan ignored me. “Your choice, Lloyd.” He addressed me: “Mazey,
Priority Command Durance Vile. One day. Run.”
- Space pirates board the ship
Then, before my recalcitrant charges could regain their feet, we had
more company. I didn’t have an alarm for “repel boarders,” but that
was what I needed. At each of the four cardinal points of the lounge a
tall skinny character appeared, back to the bulkhead, little round
shield and big swash-buckling cutlass poised, ready to slay dragons
or die trying. At the sight of my crew strewn all over the carpet they
relaxed their defensive attitudes, and a couple of them started
laughing. The one over by the aquarium, apparently the leader,
swaggered over to where Sash was lying, half stunned, against the bar.
He poked him with his cutlass.
Let's say even the pirates get pranked hard.
Like everything else in Fellow from Kent, the toilets were special,
don’t-spare-the-cash designs. They flushed like five hearts, and the
throats were big enough to stuff an overcoat thru without spoiling its
press. And with good reason; a stopped-up toilet on a starship is a
major disaster. In hyperspace, you really can’t get a plumber to come
out on the weekends. But nothing is perfect; so, just in case, there
was an emergency unclogging procedure. The life-support system was
designed to be able to deliver huge quantities of air very rapidly to
any compartment, to maintain a breathable atmosphere even in the face
of a fair-sized hole. And, as some bright boy pointed out, that same
system could put enough high-pressure air into a cabin to shove a
stoppage in a toilet or drain on down the line. Schloop, gurgle