Just a warning. The following nodeshell rescue is the basis for a meme comic strip.
The City is a vast, sprawling metropolis. The number of inhabitants can never be counted. Its circumference cannot be measured, nor its diameter crossed. Its skyscrapers extend miles into the heavens, while its sublevels go deep underground. Oddly, its surface level is completely unused, except by its outcasts, who are referred to as "street people." Nothing exists beyond The City, and if there is something, it is of no great importance. All menial labor is done by machines, eliminating the need for the blue-collar class. People do what they want to do. It is an ideal universe.
All of The City's inhabitants are connected to the Datasphere by means of a jack implanted in utero. This allows them immediate access to anything contained within the Datasphere. And just what does the Datasphere contain? Everything. Computer games, violin concertos, television programs. You name it, it's there. Jacks are part of the fashion, just like clothing. Some years, the fashion is to have your jack bulky and obvious, others it is to have them sleek and unobtrusive.
Nanotechnology is a way of life for The City's inhabitants. Anything that you can think of to do via nanotech, they have done it. A jack is assembled in a child while it is still a fetus, allowing it to be part of the organic makeup of the person. People can have parasites in their stomachs that eliminate any unwanted substance, allowing them to stay as thin as they want while eating just about everything. Or you can use them to change eye color, repair genetic defects, really just about anything.
In The City, there are no schools. Everyone has access to all available data on any subject (via the Datasphere), and can teach themselves through programs. No, this isn't an instantaneous process like in The Matrix. The learning process still occurs at normal speed, but you can download the information much quicker.
In The City, everyone begins with equal footing. Because everyone has access to the same data, no one is denied the opportunity to make use of it. That is not to say that everyone makes the same amount of money, but the urban strata that we are used to does not exist. Someone's success does not depend on the amount of money his parents earn, rather it depends on his own drive and ambition.
But like any utopia, the veneer of The City is too good to be true. The street people are not there by accident. Why are the street people there? Simple - they didn't fit in. They asked too many questions, or had too many unpopular ideas. So they were given a choice - descend to the street level, or leave The City. But who made them leave?
There are men, in green coats, who are whispered of in the Datasphere. No one knows who they are, or what they look like. The only time you will ever see one of them is if you are about to join their ranks, or you are in seriously deep shit. They are the Cognoscenti. What do they know? They know you. They know everything there is to know about you - what you eat, how you dress, your sexual orientation, how much money you spend in any given period of time, how often you masturbate. If they want to know it, they can. And they're always watching.
However, men like the Cognoscenti never work on their own. They are only fingers, instruments to be used. Someone always employs them. And that's where we arrive at Them.
Who are They? No one truly knows. All that can be known is that They began The City. And in this beginning, They sacrificed a lot. You see, jacking in wasn't always the easy process that it is now. Back then it was an irrevocable decision - surrender your body to open your mind. No one knows how long They've been living, perpetually awake. But They are very tired. They want to finally sleep. They have their own plans that are being set in motion...