Hacked players can scavenge for parts for the Phantom Trader, aiding PHANTOM's goal of rebuilding the real world. On occasion they can find ionized parts, which the Trader can convert into power for a player's HoloDev. With enough charge the Agent can return to the AERIE.
Parts that aren't ionized can be traded for credits, which the Trader's Hackerbird can deliver to whomever is still in AERIE.
Beneath the AERIE lies the remains of the world as we knew it. Broken structures, radiation-contaminated resources, and mutated wildlife are rampant. Citizens connected to AERIE are protected by AER-issued haptic bodymeshes with force fields, preventing interaction with non-AERIE supported bodies (animate or otherwise). These wander around Los Angeles, all senses blind to what the world actually looks and feels like thanks to their suits and chip.
Nourishment, hydration, sanitation, and similar mechanisms have all been adapted to the AERIE system. Any infrastructure that has a counterpart in real life (i.e. hydroponic nourishment facilities and waste treatment plants) are also force field protected. AER's monopoly over these survival resources means they are kept heavily guarded, frequently in warehouse-like facilities.
Anyone not synchronized with the AERIE system have to fend for themselves. Among this number include the cyber insurgents who have managed to "un-sync" themselves from the AERIE, those who have been expelled by force, or migrant refugees desperate to scavenge enough money to purchase access.