Tony first found the kid because there was a wallet in his pocket.
Tony didn't have a wallet. He had a famous face, a phone, and an assistant to take care of anything that might need a wallet and none of them messed up the lines of his suits.
Well, his assistants before Pepper had sometimes messed up the lines of his suit, and at the moment he was post-Pepper and pre whoever came next, so maybe he should have been carrying a wallet, but the fact remained that he hadn't been at the start of the evening and by the end of the evening, he had been.
It had been a wallet for a Bernard Hugh Cunningham the fourth, which was just embarrassing.
He hadn't needed to hack into any security systems to figure out what had happened because it turned out that nearly everyone who had gone to that party with a wallet had gone home with someone else's. The venue was highly embarrassed, most of the party-goers were highly incensed, and Tony was highly amused.
What did take some extra hacking was to figure out who had done it, because the venue's security detail had failed entirely to pinpoint any particular individual.
Tony, well, okay, JARVIS had managed to identify one person and track him down to the New York Public Library the following day, where he was writing a combination of rude comments and brilliant corrections into the physics texts. Tony recognized that look of sulky boredom. He'd informed the kid that he was hired and then asked him his name, since not even JARVIS had managed to actually find the kid's records yet.
Young, gorgeous, brilliant, a sense of humor that led to practical jokes, and without the money that had helped Tony survive, Tony wasn't at all surprised that the kid—Loptr Laufeyjorson—was also sullen, defensive and hurting. He couldn't do anything about the past, but he could do something about the future.
Their discussion about quantum particles on the drive back to his place had been wonderful and given him all sorts of ideas. They were co-writing an academic article for publication and trying to figure out a practical implementation within three days.
By the next week, when Loptr let him know that there was a board meeting in the afternoon and either Tony was going or Loptr was going with Tony's proxy vote, the glint in Loptr's eyes had Tony suiting up and paying attention in the meeting.
Pepper was impressed. Tony was impressed, too. Working with Loptr felt a bit like driving one of his cars on the best of twisty mountain roads. Tony was in control, but only just. Any moment, any lack of attention or just plain bad luck could throw them both off a cliff at high speed. Loptr was clearly Tony's kind of assistant.